Born in Oakland, CA, on July 24, 1953, Jon Faddis began playing trumpet at age eight, inspired by an appearance of Louis Armstrong on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Three years later, his trumpet teacher Bill Catalano, an alumnus of the Stan Kenton band, turned the jazz- struck youngster on to Dizzy Gillespie. By his mid-teens, Jon had not only met Dizzy, he'd even sat in with his hero's combo at the famed Jazz Workshop in San Francisco.
Upon graduating high school in 1971, Jon joined Lionel Hampton's band as a featured soloist and moved to New York. That same year, responding to an invitation from Mel Lewis to drop by the Village Vanguard whenever he got to New York, Jon sat in with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band on one of their regular Monday night sessions. That sit-in turned into four years of Monday nights playing with the band, as well as a tour of the Soviet Union with the highly acclaimed unit. Jan also toured with Charles Mingus and recorded on the Pablo label with Dizzy and Oscar Peterson.
Other highlights included filling in (at age of 18) for an ailing Roy Eldridge in an all-star concert led by Charles Mingus at New York's Philharmonic Hall; a Carnegie Hall gig with Sarah Vaughan; two years in attendance at the Annual Colorado Jazz Party where he was featured in a historic duet with Eubie Blake; performances with Gil Evans' and Count Basie's big bands; appearances at Radio City Music Hall and festivals here and abroad; and sitting in with Dizzy whenever possible.
In light of these accomplishments his recognition in the jazz polls, myriad accolades from the critical press, burgeoning numbers of international fans, heady praise from the likes of Diz, Mingus and Mel Lewis, and the pressure of public life is it any wonder that a (then) 20- year old Jon Faddis opted for the sequestered life of the studio musician? However, those studio years ultimately proved significant in his artistic development. Exposure to a diverse spectrum of music helped shape him into the broad-based interpreter and (creator in) African-American idioms that he is today. Jon's distinctive trumpet voice would be heard on albums by performers as disparate as Duke Ellington, the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Kool and the Gang, Luther Vandross, Quincy Jones, Billy Joel and Stanley Clarke, to name a few. His horn was heard on the theme of "The Cosby Show," on the soundtrack of Clint Eastwood's films "The Gauntlet" and "Bird," and on many commercials. Jon Faddis had become one of the most in-demand session musicians in New York. A turning point was the invitation from Dizzy to accompany him on a visit to the White House in 1982. The occasion was an "In Performance" ceremony in which Dizzy and several other major American artists showcased young colleagues they believed to be "on the verge of exceptional careers." Jon's participation in the event was apparently enough to convince him he had a lot more to offer than horn section lead on jingles, or the occasional solo (often uncredited) on a lavish studio production of a pop star.