Taylor was a noted pianist, and was the house pianist at Birldand early in his career, where he performed with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. He also appeared on stage with Cozy Coles' Quintet in Billy Rose's show, The Seven Lively Arts, and played in the pit band for Ethel Waters' show, Blue Holiday.
During his lifetime, he composed over 350 songs, including "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free," which became an anthem of the civil rights movement.
Taylor was the bandlander for TV's The David Frost Show, and also hosted and programmed such radio stations WLIB and WNEW in New York, and several award-winning series for National Public Radio. In the early 1980s, Taylor became the arts correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning.
In 1989, Taylor started his own "Taylor Made" record label to document his own music, releasing four albums, and in the late 90s, "Soundpost Records," releasing his two final recordings.
He also served as the Artistic Advisor for Jazz to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where he developed the Louis Armstrong Legacy series and the annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival.
His many honors included two Peabody Awards, an Emmy, a Grammy, and the National Medal of Arts.
He survived by his wife, Theodora and his daughter, Kim Taylor-Thompson.