For jazz trumpet player Jon Faddis, education and mentorship are key to the genre’s longevity

Jon Faddis. Photo provided

Trumpeter, bandleader, and educator Jon Faddis is one of the few jazz musicians who can still say he played with the legends of the genre. His credits include recordings and tours with Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Oscar Peterson, Kenny Burrell, and many others. In addition, Faddis has recorded a series of solo albums that touch on big-band, cool jazz, hard bop, orchestral, and Afro-Cuban music, albums that carry on the traditions of his mentors while honing his own dazzling skill as a high-range player who can hit notes that other players can only dream of.

Faddis, who will play a show March 8 at The Wheel in the Village of West Greenville, has also spent several decades teaching and holding master classes and workshops, most notably at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College-SUNY in Westchester County, New York.

This is probably a good time to mention that he also played trumpet on the Village People’s disco juggernaut, “Y.M.C.A.”

Needless to say, Faddis has had a rich, full career and maintains a busy schedule. But he’s playing this show at a small venue in Greenville because drummer Kevin Korschgen, who has been bringing a series of jazz shows to The Wheel for the past few years, reached out and asked him to. Faddis and Korschgen met in Chicago several years ago at one of Faddis’ workshops.

“We had a summer jazz camp, and I would go to schools and give master classes,” Faddis says. “And one of the people that I met doing that is Kevin. And he called me to come down to Greenville. He’s very much involved in the jazz scene down there, and we worked it out.”

Faddis will be playing in a quartet with pianist Mike Murray, bassist Tony DePaolis, and Korschgen, but he’s not sure yet what they’ll be playing.

“There’s no typical way I decide what to play, but it is going to depend on the musicians,” he says. “That’s what I base the repertoire on: what they’d like to play and what they know. And we’ll go from there.”

In addition to the aforementioned Village People date, Faddis has often augmented his jazz work with pop music sessions, including work with Billy Joel and Paul Simon. And unlike some purist musicians like Wynton Marsalis, he doesn’t see a problem with moving outside his genre.

“I think it broadened my appreciation for different kinds of music,” he says. “I’m influenced by things I hear. Some of the pop things I played on wouldn’t be my first choice, but they got my trumpet sound heard by millions of people. Plus, the money was really good in doing studio work.”

As for his educational endeavors, Faddis says they came naturally to him, both from his personal and professional lives.

“My father was a teacher,” he says. “And he instilled in me a desire to learn. And then when I met Dizzy and got to know him over a couple of decades, I would observe him and people like [trumpeter] Clark Terry and [Count Basie Orchestra stalwart] Sweets Edison. Whenever a young musician would ask them a question, they would take the time to answer it. If you asked Dizzy a question about music, he could sit down at the piano and start talking, and the next thing you know, three or four hours would’ve passed by.”

But Faddis adds that his efforts to teach young jazz musicians are also about carrying on a tradition, one that he sees fading from the modern music world.

“There used to be a stronger mentorship situation happening in jazz, especially during the big band era,” he says. “In the ’30s or ’40s when you would join a band and an older musician would take you under their wing and tell you things like, ‘Stay away from that guy; he’s a drug dealer,’ or ‘Make sure to send some money back home.’ Things that were outside the music but were a big part of growing and developing as a person. I really think it’s important to share with the next generation of kids who want to make a career in jazz and let them know what some of the roadblocks are.”

The Jon Faddis Quartet
When: Thursday, March 8, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Wheel, 1288 Pendleton St., Greenville
Tickets: SOLD OUT

Info: 864-419-1148,



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