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A smokin’ good horn player is born

Jon Faddis was born in Oakland, California on July 24, 1953. At eight years old, he began playing the trumpet after watching Louis Armstrong on the Ed Sullivan Show. He took lessons from Bill Catalano, a former member of the Stan Kenton Band. Bill introduced him to the music of Dizzy Gillespie, and after three years of lessons, Jon was tackling Dizzy’s music.

Steps on the road to greatness

At age fifteen, Dizzy heard Jon play at the Monterey Jazz Festival and was impressed. He invited Jon to sit in with him at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco. This sparked a friendship that would last until Dizzy's death in the 1990s.

Two years later, Jon moved from Oakland to New York after his high school graduation. By the age of twenty, Jon had accomplished more than most musicians ever dream. He was a featured soloist in Lionel Hampton’s band, a member of the Mel Lewis Big Band, performed with both Gil Evans’ and Count Basie’s Big Bands, played Philharmonic Hall with Charles Mingus, Carnegie Hall with Sarah Vaughn, and sat in with Dizzy whenever possible. He began garnering praise and recognition from the jazz community and fans both at home and abroad. With fame waiting outside his door, Jon chose the mostly-anonymous life of a studio musician.

His time spent in the studio can hardly be called a waste. During those years, Jon was exposed to and played many different flavors of music. His trumpet can be heard on recordings by the likes of Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Quincy Jones, the Rolling Stones, Kool and the Gang, Eric Clapton and Luther Vandross. He recorded the theme of The Cosby Show as well as various commercials.

Into the spotlight and beyond

In 1982, Dizzy invited Jon to play at the White House at a ceremony that showcased young musicians believed by their better known colleagues to be "on the verge of exceptional careers." Within a year, Jon left the studio and began playing clubs with a working combo. Before long he was composing tunes like screamer "Into the Faddisphere" and recording albums with his name on the cover.

Jon also tried his hand at directing, playing a major role in organizing and rehearsing Dizzy’s big band. What started with assisting his pal grew into quite a long conductor’s resume. Jon served as musical director for many groups, including Dizzy’s United Nation Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Centennial Big Band, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Fiftieth Anniversary Dizzy Gillespie Tribute Band, and the Newport Jazz Festival Fortieth-Anniversary Tour, to name a few.

Throughout all this, Jon still found time to jam with some amazing players, like Arturo Sandoval, with whom he traded crazy octaves as Barbara Bush watched in amusement from the audience.

At the time of this writing, Jon leads the Jazz Millennium Big Band at SUNY-Purchase Conservatory and frequently conducts master classes and clinics around the world. He is committed to the education of young musicians and serves on the advisory council of the International Association of Jazz Educators.

For you trumpet players, Jon plays a gold-plated custom Schilke trumpet (model S-42) with a tunable bell and no water key (that’s right, boys and girls, a trumpet player will be quick to inform you that it is condensation, not spit, that leaks out of a trumpet). His mouthpieces are custom made by Scott Laskey. You too can get Scott to make you a mouthpiece, he owns his own company and will even talk to you over the phone to help determine what sort of mouthpiece you need.

Jon’s discography includes:

  • Jon & Billy (1974)
  • Good and Plenty (1978)
  • Legacy (1985)
  • Into the Faddisphere (1989)
  • Hornucopia (1991)
  • Rememberances (1998)

Resources:
http://www.pitt.edu/~pittjazz/individual_htmls/jon_faddis.html
http://dizzyalumni.com/artistpages/faddisframe.htm
http://www.amazon.com
http://www.trumpetstuff.com
Conversations with a certain beloved one

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