About the Festival
The Billy Taylor Jazz Festival began humbly, started and developed by ECU professor emeritus Carroll V. Dashiell, Jr., when high school and middle school jazz bands came to campus to perform at critiquing sessions, then to enjoy a performance by the ECU Jazz Ensemble A and a guest artist.
The festival grew rapidly. In 2003 Dr. Billy Taylor lent his name to the festival, and the Greenville Convention Center was retained to contain the audience who came for a gala evening, witness Mayor Don Parrott offer Taylor the Keys to the City, and hear him proclaim the day “Dr. Billy Taylor Day” on behalf of the City Council.
The festival now offers multiple public concerts, a free jam session, critiquing sessions for eight or more high school and middle school jazz bands, exceptional guest artists and opportunities for Jazz Friends to mingle and celebrate.
About the ECU Jazz Ensemble A
The award-winning East Carolina University Jazz Ensemble “A” (ECUJE) is the select touring group of the School of Music Jazz Studies Program. The ensemble has earned international recognition as one of the premiere university jazz ensembles from the state of North Carolina.
Down Beat Magazine selected ECUJE from a nation-wide university jazz program audition to present premiere performances at Carnegie Hall, the famous Birdland Jazz Club in New York City and the Smithsonian Institute. With additional performances at the 1996 Montreux Jazz Festival; International Association of Jazz Educators Conference in Anaheim, California; Southeast Regional MENC Conventions in Savannah, Georgia and Louisville, Kentucky; NCMEA Annual Convention in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; the ensemble has delighted audiences with “pinpoint pacing” and “fluid swingability.” Standing ovations have become an accustomed response by audiences witnessing the ECUJE deliver diverse programs that always include Be-Bop Era standards, traditional classics of the Big Band/Swing Era, and new, different, contemporary, and original compositions of the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
ECUJE was the recipient of the Jazz Fest USA 1997 Gold Award, sponsored by Down Beat magazine, Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and Universal Studios Florida. ECUJE “Jazz Directions 1-1993” compact disc was awarded three stars in the October 1994 issue of Down Beat Magazine, which also stated that the compact disc was “a showcase for the ensemble with a sharply honed Basie cum-bop approach to big-band swing.” The second compact disc “Jazz Directions 2-1997” features the ensemble in live performances with special guest artists Bob Mintzer, (1998/99 Robert L. Jones Distinguished Professor of Music) and Vanessa Rubin.
In recent years, ECUJE has appeared in concert and workshop/clinic sessions with renowned jazz artists Dr. Billy Taylor, Branford Marsalis, Bobby Watson, Bob Mintzer and the Yellow Jackets, Jimmy Haslip, Russell Ferrante, William Kennedy, Peter Erskine, Yellow Jackets, Benny Green, Marcus Roberts, Houston Person, Etta Jones, Maynard Furgeson, Rufus Reid, William “Keter” Betts, Ethel Ennis, Victor Lewis, Dave Valentine, Mulgrew Miller, Christian McBride, Grady Tate, Vanessa Rubin, Maceo Parker, Melton Mustafa, Leonard “Doc” Gibbs, Kevin Toney, Land Richards, Jiggs Whigham, Roger “Buck” Hill, John Fedchock, Dave Yarborough, Dr. Willie L, Hill, and Maestro Wynton Marsalis, who called the band “one of the best college bands I’ve heard!”