I remember when I first met Billy Taylor. I was playing at the Hickory House back in the ’50s. I would go over to Birdland a lot, and that’s where I first heard him. I still have this mental picture of going to Birdland and seeing this skinny young man with glasses, whom I’d never seen before. I asked somebody, “Who is that?” And they said, “Oh, it’s Billy Taylor, he’s our pianist.” I went back to Hickory House with the thought in my head that I had to get to know this guy, and I did. We became good friends from that time on.
We shared a love of Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams and a lot of other people too, including Art Tatum, though Billy got to know him much more than I did. Art did a great deal for Billy’s education as a jazz musician. Like Billy, Art Tatum was a very friendly and nice guy. Art always treated somebody like me with great friendliness.