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Jon Faddis: Man of Many Bands

By Published: May 4, 2005

AAJ: Speaking of young trumpet players, there have been quite a few of them coming up over the past few years. Any in particular who have caught your attention?

JF: There are some really, really good ones coming up. Some I've had the opportunity to play with — some I haven't. There's a young guy out of Cleveland who went to school at Rutgers and he's come out with his own CD (Eternal Journey, Mack Avenue Records). His name is Sean Jones and I'm really excited about some of the things he's doing. Ryan Kizor with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra—although he's not so young anymore. And Iheard a kid down in New Orleans named Trombone Shorty ireally liked. So there's no shortage of talent out there.

AAJ: One of the hardest things for any jazz musician is finding their own style and individual approach to the music. With Dizzy being such a strong early influence on you, your sound on the horn was closely identified with his approach. That must have made it especially difficult for you since it seems some critics have typecast you as a Dizzy clone and don't seem to recognize you have developed your own style as you've matured.

JF: Of course. And I do think it was along process for me to develop my sound... a longer process than normal because my relationship with Dizzy was a pretty rare one. Dizzy was always very supportive and generous of his time with me. As a result, some people got the idea in their head that I sound like Dizzy, then they dismiss me. They won't go any further than that. But I think I have gone further and developed my own sound — my own style. It used to bother me, but I had a talk with Wallace Roney about that. The same thing happened to him with Miles. But if you listen to him closely you'll hear him playing many different harmonic ideas than Miles would play, longer lines, a lot of things. I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished in music and jazz and I do think I have my own stuff happening.

AAJ: You've played with everyone from the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band and Charles Mingus to Duke Ellington and Count Basie. But for the past 15 years or so, you've been identified with big bands and jazz orchestras—especially the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra. How did you end up as the director of CHJO?

JF: It was through George Wein. Carnegie Hall asked him to create a jazz series. Rather than just doing a different concert each time, he wanted to start a band. A couple of years earlier, he had seen the Dizzy Gillespie 70th Birthday Big Band I had directed, and he asked me to put together a band to celebrate the Carnegie Hall Centennial. He told me afterward that was the best big band put together for a special occasion he had ever heard. So he asked me if I would like to put together a big band on a continuing basis for Carnegie Hall concerts, and I said, yeah!

AAJ: Was it difficult to get the Carnegie Hall band up and running? And did the competition from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and other big bands concern you?

JF: In the beginning, it was a little difficult figuring out the direction we wanted to go because of course, there was Lincoln Center and the Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra as well. But we knew we didn't want to just do repertory — recreating things from the '30s and '40s. We did do some of that, but we also wanted to get some of the finest contemporary arrangers and writers and get them to work with our band. We were able to do that with about 35-40 different arrangers and composers, from Melba Liston, Maria Schneider and the late Monty Albam to Frank Foster and Slide Hampton. And it wasn't difficult to get started once we figured out what we wanted to do. Then we were home free.

AAJ: Unfortunately, the CHJO came to an end in 2002. But I understand you now have your own big band — the Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra.

JF: That's right. The Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra played its last concert in October, 2002. Thankfully, there were people who wanted to continue the legacy and mission of the band, but it took a couple of years to get everything confirmed and put together. We were dealing with the aftermath of 9/11, and also at that time Lincoln Center was working hard to build their new hall — and we didn't want to get in the way of that. Things finally came together earlier this year and the Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra is now in existence — continuing to have original music written for performance. And we have many of the same musicians from the Carnegie Hall band still with us. We just played up at the Newport Jazz Festival, and we'll be playing a concert soon in Red Bank, New Jersey to celebrate Count Basie's centennial in his hometown.

AAJ: You performed on a Fall 2004 with your quartet. Tell us a little about that group.

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