Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Faddis, Jon (Jonathan)

Trumpeter Jon Faddis burst onto the New York jazz scene at age seventeen with a firm foundation learned from his mentor Dizzy Gillespie. He has since built on this to create a personal and melodically unlimited style in both jazz and popular music. A versatile and prolific performer, his playing is equally anchored to blues, swing and bebop.

Jonathan Faddis was born on July 24, 1953 in Oakland, California. Faddis began to play the trumpet at the age of eight after seeing trumpeter Louis Armstrong perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Three years later, Jon was exposed to Dizzy Gillespie by his teacher Bill Catalano, himself an alumnus of bandleader Stan Kenton’s band. Shortly after, Faddis gained initial professional experience performing with rhythm and blues groups around the San Francisco area.

During his mid-teens, Faddis received the opportunity to sit in with Gillespie’s combo at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco. In 1971, Jon graduated from Pleasant Hill High School and moved to New York City, where he performed with bandleader Lionel Hampton for six months.

Faddis then received an invitation from drummer Mel Lewis to come to the Village Vanguard on a Monday night to sit in with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis big band. That initial performance turned into a steady gig he held until 1975. With the Jones/Lewis orchestra, he gained international touring experience, which began to establish his reputation in the jazz community.

In 1972, Faddis began a brief period of study at the Manhattan School of Music, but left after a year. The same year, Jon appeared with bassist Charles Mingus on the album Mingus and Friends in Concert. The album also featured baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and pianist James Moody. For the session, Faddis replaced Roy Eldridge, who was ill at the time.

On January 19, 1974, Faddis recorded with Mingus on the live album Mingus at Carnegie Hall. The same year, Jon performed with Gillespie in the bandleader’s small ensemble as well as his big band. 1974 also saw him recording the album Jon & Billy, his first album as a leader. Faddis co-led the session with tenor saxophonist Billy Harper and also featured pianist Sir Roland Hanna, drummer Motohiko Hino and bassist George Mraz.

In 1975, Faddis recorded an album of duets with pianist Oscar Peterson. Entitled Oscar Peterson & Jon Faddis, the album features the two musicians performing an array of standards including bandleader Duke Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be”and tenor saxophonist Lester Young’s “Lester Leaps In.” They are especially noteworthy with their take on the popular standard “Autumn Leaves.”

The two men use the stripped-down setting to their advantage. While Faddis’s performance clearly indicates the influence of Gillespie, the warmth of his tone reveals his willingness to step outside of bebop's aesthetic. His phrasing at times is modern, though with the Gillespie touch it feels as if he is paying tribute to his mentor as well as stating his own voice. Peterson enhances Faddis’ performance with his juxtaposition of bebop and blues sensibilities which clearly serve the harmonic arc of the song.

Faddis began 1976 by recording his second album Youngblood alongside Mraz, pianist Kenny Barron and drummer Mickey Roker. The same year, Jon accompanied arranger Gil Evans on a European tour. The following year, he performed with Gillespie at the Montreux Jazz Festival and appeared in the documentary The Great Rocky Mountain Jazz Party, which included footage of him performing with pianist Eubie Blake at Dick Gibson’s Colorado Jazz Party. 1977 also saw him performing on the soundtrack to the Clint Eastwood movie The Gauntlet.

In 1978, demand for Faddis's services as a sideman continued to grow, and he contributed to guitarist Grant Green’s album Easy. The album reached the number forty-five position on Billboard Magazine’s Top Jazz Albums Chart. The same year, Jon appeared on bassist Ron Carter’s album Standard Bearers. The album also featured the talents of pianists Red Garland, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner. The following year, he performed with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson on his album Conception: The Gift of Love.

In February 1980, Faddis performed with Gil Evans on the album Live at the Public Theater in New York, Vol. 1. The following year, Jon performed on records for guitarist George Benson and singer Aretha Franklin. In 1982, he received the opportunity to perform with Gillespie at the White House for then-president Ronald Reagan. The concert was part of an “In Performance” ceremony in which Gillespie and several other American artists showcased young contemporaries who they believed would have a fruitful career in the arts.

In 1983, Faddis recorded with bassist Jaco Pastorius on his album Invitation. The following year, Jon formed his own quintet with saxophonist Greg Osby, pianist James Williams, bassist Anthony Cox and drummer Kenny Washington.

1984 also saw Faddis being featured in the band that recorded the theme to the hit 1980s sitcom “The Cosby Show.” The following year, he recorded in a quintet led by McCoy Tyner and alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and in an orchestra accompanying vocalist Carmen Lundy.

1985 also saw Faddis releasing the album Legacy for the Concord label. For the album, Jon called upon the talents of Kenny Barron, Mel Lewis, bassist Ray Brown and tenor saxophonist Harold Land. The album features renditions of several well-known jazz standards including Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” and composer Neal Hefti’s “Lil’ Darlin’.”

Faddis’ contributions to this album can be best heard on his version of trumpeter Thad Jones’s “A Child Is Born.” After a brief introduction by Barron and Lewis, Faddis enters the arrangement where he plays the melody sweetly to evoke the sentimental character of the song. In his solo, he performs small melodic fragments which drive home the emotional quality of the melody. The inclusion of a blues-oriented device at livens the ensemble a bit, creating a sudden shift in mood. The result is a dual emotional center to the song which the ensemble perfectly conveys.

Throughout the 1980s, Faddis took on studio work with popular artists including The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Luther Vandross and Kool and the Gang. In 1986, Faddis became a member of drummer Steve Gadd’s group, the Gadd Gang. By 1988, Jon resumed his association with Gillespie as a founding member of the elder trumpeter's United Nation Orchestra, and he served as its first musical director. The same year, he performed with the Mingus Big Band in Europe. The following year, he performed with pianist Gene Harris’s All Star Big Band and released his album Into the Faddisphere.

By 1990, Faddis was leading his own quartet, which included pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist James Genus and drummer Billy Drummond, and performed with the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra. The following year, he performed with pianist George Gruntz’a Concert Jazz Band.

In 1992, Faddis performed with pianist Monty Alexander’s orchestra and toured European festivals as a member of the New York Jazz Giants. The same year, Jon became a founding member of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, in which he serves as the ensemble’s music director. Upon the death of Gillespie in 1993, he began to perform with trombonist Slide Hampton’s Jazzmasters, an offshoot of Gillespie’s band.

1993 also saw Faddis performing in various jazz events at Lincoln Center and toured and recorded with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The following year, Jon performed with bassist Milt Hinton’s group and by 1995, he was the trumpet soloist in a concert of Mingus’ music at Carnegie Hall. 1995 also saw the release of his album The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band for Blue Note Records.

In 1996, Faddis performed with trombonist J.J. Johnson’s Brass Orchestra and saxophonist Joe Henderson’s big band. In 1998, Jon toured with a sextet he co-led with Hampton and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath. The same year, he released the album Remembrances, which featured a group made up of five reed instruments, trombone, French horn and a rhythm section.

During this time, Faddis was a key component in the development of the Trumpet Summit Band, a supergroup which featured Benny Bailey, Roy Hargrove, Terell Stafford, Nicholas Payton and Clark Terry. In 1999, Jon became the first artist-in-residence at the State University of New York at Purchase, where he continues to teach.

In 2002, Faddis was included on the Gene Harris album Swingin’ the Blues, a retrospective album of material by the noted pianist. The same year, Jon was named the Director of Jazz Performance at the Conservatory on Music at Purchase. 2002 also saw him receiving the JD Award for excellence in teaching in New York City high schools. Around this time he was also the recipient of the Milt Jackson award for Excellence and Accessibility in Jazz.

On December 6, 2002, Faddis premiered several original compositions based on sixty-three pieces by artist/cartoonist Romare Bearden at the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College. In May 2003, Jon received the first-ever honorary doctorate in Jazz Studies from the Manhattan School of Music. In October 2003, he served as the music director for the opening celebrations for the Louis Armstrong House & Archives in Queens, New York.

On June 6, 2006, Faddis released his album Teranga. The album features contributions from pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Dion Parson amongst others. The ensemble is especially tight on the album’s opening track “The Hunters and Gatherers.” The track opens with Kitagawa playing slightly dissonant sounding voicings that perfectly executes the minor key sound of the introduction. Upon entering the arrangemen, Faddis plays the melody with a lingering sense of sadness that supports the atmosphere of the ensemble. Throughout the song, Jon exudes lightning fast lines that often times sound primal, yet keenly intricate.

Faddis lives in New York City and continues an active performance, recording and teaching schedule.

Select Discography

As a leader:

Jon & Billy (1974)

Youngblood (1976)

Legacy (1985)

Into the Faddisphere (1989)

The Carnegie Hall Big Band (1995)

Remembrances (1998)

Teranga (2006)

With Ron Carter

Standard Bearers (1978)

With Gil Evans

Live at the Public Theater in New York, Vol. 1 (1980)

With Grant Green

Easy (1978)

With Gene Harris

Swingin’ the Blues (2002)

With Bobby Hutcherson

Conception: The Gift of Love (1979)

With Charles Mingus

Mingus and Friends in Concert (1972)

Mingus at Carnegie Hall (1974)

With Jaco Pastorius

Invitation (1983)

With Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson & Jon Faddis (1975)

Contributor: Eric Wendell