About the Festival
The Billy Taylor Jazz Festival began humbly. 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 quickly outgrew A. J. Fletcher Recital Hall. 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 offers three public concerts, a free jam session, critiquing sessions for eight or more high school and middle school jazz bands, and opportunities for Jazz Friends to mingle and celebrate.
Carroll V. Dashiell Jr. is the artistic director of the Billy Taylor Jazz Festival and professor of bass at East Carolina University’s School of Music. A native of Washington, D.C., he is recognized for excellence in the music industry as a bassist, musical director, and a composer/arranger. His performance history includes concerts with the Boston Pops, the National Symphony, and the Washington Philharmonic Orchestra; with Dr. Billy Taylor, Ethel Ennis, and the Fifth Dimension; and on concert/show tours with Maurice Hines, Stephanie Mills, Maceo Parker, Ray Charles, Vanessa Rubin, and Jennifer Holiday. Mr. Dashiell appears on several recordings as bassist with Capitol (Blue Note) Records recording artist Bobby Watson and Horizon, Muse Records artist Roger "Buck" Hill, and appears as producer/performer on over thirty-five national and international recordings. He is a 1994-95 recipient of the Robert and Lina Mays and Robert L. Jones Distinguished Alumni Teaching Excellence Award.
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. Under the tutelage of bassist Carroll V. Dashiell, Jr., who joined the faculty in 1989, 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!"