Jon Faddis is a complete and complex musician, conductor, composer and educator. As a trumpeter, Mr. Faddis possesses full command of his instrument; he consistently demonstrates an extraordinary range, one that is virtually unparalleled today. In one moment, Mr. Faddis — of whom his friend and mentor John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie said, “he’s the best ever, including me!” — summons forth and sustains searing, stratospherically high notes, and in the next, masterfully captures enchantingly soft, achingly thoughtful melodies. He evokes the voices of Armstrong, Davis, Eldridge, and of course, Gillespie, all the while remaining true to his own. His training for such excellence began early and involved working closely with many of jazz’s greatest legends. Inspired by an appearance of Louis Armstrong on the Ed Sullivan Show, Mr. Faddis began playing trumpet in 1961, at age eight. Three years later, with the help of his trumpet teacher, Bill Catalano, Mr. Faddis tackled the music of Gillespie.
At age fifteen, Mr. Faddis impressed Gillespie at the Monterey Jazz Festival, earning an invitation to sit in with Gillespie at the famed Jazz Workshop in San Francisco; it was the beginning of a profound lifelong friendship.
Two years later, after graduating from high school in Oakland, California, Mr. Faddis moved to New York, first joining Lionel Hampton’s band as a featured soloist, and then the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band at the Village Vanguard. At eighteen, he made a debut at New York’s Philharmonic Hall with Charles Mingus. Such auspicious beginnings heralded great things to come. Two decades (and countless recordings, tours, and appearances in the United States and internationally) later, Mr. Faddis would once again make a New York debut, this time as the conductor and music director of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, a preeminent jazz orchestra recognized not only for its swinging sound, tight ensemble work, and original arrangements, but also for the camaraderie among the CHJB musicians, each of whom Mr. Faddis seeks to showcase individually. As conductor and music director of the CHJB, Mr. Faddis brings a multidimensional vision of jazz to the music – one that encompasses a healthy respect for the history of jazz yet also fully embraces and advances its tradition of innovation and change, one that combines an intellectual playfulness and curiosity with the rigorous discipline necessary to create exceptional music, one that pairs some of the greatest of jazz’s elder statesmen with some of the best emerging talent in unique and unexpected ways. The depth of expertise shared by the musicians, their ability to listen to and to learn from one another in creating a concert, and Mr. Faddis’ own virtuostic strength and humor – all make it sound at times deceptively easy to play the most difficult and adventurous of arrangements.
Mr. Faddis’ prowess as a conductor is rooted in his early experiences as a soloist and section musician with other great big bands and was honed in 1987, when Mr. Faddis played the primary role in organizing and rehearsing Gillespie’s big band, which celebrated the legendary be-bopper’s 70th birthday on tour here and abroad. In 1989, Mr. Faddis assumed the same position as musical director of Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra, another international all-star group. Since that time, Mr. Faddis has served as music director and/or conductor for various jazz bands, including the Carnegie Hall Centennial Big Band, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Fiftieth Anniversary Dizzy Gillespie Tribute Band, the Newport Jazz Festival Fortieth-Anniversary Tour, and the Tribute to King Oliver concert for the 1996 Olympics, and for the concert and video, Diana Ross Live: Stolen Moments. Mr. Faddis has also performed and recorded with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, the Gil Evans Big Band and the Mingus Big Band, among others; he has toured multiple times for the U.S. State Department and played for presidents at the White House and royalty abroad. Mr. Faddis also conducts the Jazz Millennium Big Band at the SUNY-Purchase Conservatory, where he is a distinguished professor and artist-in-residence, and the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars at the Blue Note in New York and other venues nationally and internationally. Additionally, Mr. Faddis works in symphonic settings: in June 2000, he conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a concert of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music, presented as part of the SFSO’s American Mavericks program. He is also featured with the London Philharmonic in Lalo Schifrin’s Jazz Meets the Symphony series, and other works such as Gillespiana and Latin Jazz Suite.
His compositions, from the scorching anthem “Into the Faddisphere” to the meditation “War and Peace” and ballads such as “The Best I’ve Found,” evidence a strongly original voice, as does his work, Lulu Noire, a jazz opera created in collaboration with MacArthur recipient and librettist Lee Breur; Lulu Noire, adapted from the Wedekind Lulu plays, premiered at the Spol eto Festival (U.S.) in May 1997 and was performed at the American Music Theater Festival. Mr. Faddis’ recordings, from amazing early duets (e.g., Oscar Peterson & Jon Faddis (Pablo/1975), when Mr. Faddis was merely twenty-two) to his most recent solo release, the Grammy-nominated Remembrances (Chesky/1998), demonstrate his remarkable versatility. Mr. Faddis’ distinctive trumpet work is featured on numerous soundtracks, including The Wiz, The Cosby Show, A Winter in Lisbon and the Clint Eastwood films The Gauntlet and Bird, and on hundreds of recordings, including those of Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Quincy Jones and Tina Turner. Infused with the same spirit of mentoring that characterizes the best of the jazz tradition, Mr. Faddis has an enduring commitment to the education of young musicians. In addition to teaching at the Purchase Conservatory, Mr. Faddis frequently conducts clinics and master classes around the world. Mr. Faddis serves on the advisory counsel of the International Association of Jazz Educators and, as a board member of the International Trumpet Guild, co-hosted the 25th Anniversary conference in May 2000. He is a regular advisor to Jazz at Lincoln Center, including its and the “Essentially Ellington” competition and works with the Jazz Commission Project and the National Endowment for the Arts on various jazz projects. Mr. Faddis is the recipient of numerous accolades and awards, including the Milt Jackson Award for excellence and accessibility in jazz (dizzygillespie.org).