Jon Faddis makes a bittersweet return to Chicago

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Jon Faddis

Jon Faddis plays trumpet with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune / May 20, 2011)

Specifically, Faddis will be revisiting the solo part in the classic Miles Davis/Gil Evans album "Miles Ahead" (1957), billed as the Chicago premiere of this music in concert. Less celebrated than subsequent Davis/Evans collaborations on "Sketches of Spain" and "Porgy and Bess," "Miles Ahead" will give Faddis the opportunity to explore a more muted, restrained approach to the horn than one typically associates with his bravura playing.

He acknowledges that he's not as familiar with the inner workings of the score as he is with "Sketches" and "Porgy," but he jokes that "maybe that will give me a leg up, because maybe the audiences won't know it that well, either."

Then, again, Faddis will play his own solos, not Davis', though Faddis hopes to suggest Davis' style of the late 1950s.

But even this partnership with the CJO will evoke Faddis' previous ties to the CJE. For Faddis, too, brought a Miles Davis album to the Harris Theater stage, appearing with core members of the CJE and guests in a luminous re-creation of Davis' "Kind of Blue." And the first half of Sunday's CJO concert will be a tribute to the great Count Basie arranger Frank Foster, whom Faddis and the CJE commissioned to write arrangements that now stand among Foster's last works (he died in 2011 at age 82).

"I think what I'm proudest of," says Faddis, "was having the opportunity to commission new works for the band, whether it was from Chicago arrangers, when we did that first concert in Millennium Park (in 2005) or getting a hold of Frank Foster and having him write some things. That is very special."

In his post CJE-life, Faddis remains busy as bandleader and clinician, teaching kids across the country and around the world, just as he did here in Chicago.

And he has one student who's getting special attention: three-year-old Tyler John Faddis, his son with wife Laurelyn Douglas, who also was a presence in Chicago during her husband's tenure here.

"Everyone says that when you have a child, your life is going to change," says Faddis, who reports that his son has expressed an interest in the violin.

"That doesn't really tell you what it means, or how it's going to change. But I think we've been very blessed, and he's a great and beautiful kid, and I now know what they mean. …

"Tyler makes me feel young and old at the same time. Being 60 – I just celebrated my 60th – and having a three-year-old and trying to keep up with him, that's good for me.

"But then I need more sleep these days. And it doesn't always happen the way we want it to."

Not everything in life – or music – does.

Wynton Marsalis' newest gig

The hardest working man in jazz, Wynton Marsalis, will become director of jazz studies at the Juilliard School in New York on July 1. Marsalis also serves as managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, leads its resident orchestra in tours around the world and broadcasts as a cultural correspondent for CBS television. Marsalis attended Juilliard for a period starting in 1979 and received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the school in 2006.

To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to

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Jon Faddis performs with Jeff Lindberg's Chicago Jazz Orchestra at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St.; $20-$40; phone 312-334-7777 or visit or

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