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Jon was born in New York City in 1938. There was a piano in the family apartment as his mother studied classical music and practiced as he went to sleep each night. He was exposed to jazz at an early age through recordings around the house of various big and small bands. Jon heard Charlie Parker play on a JATP (Jazz at the Philharmonic) concert recording and decided that Alto was his instrument. That lasted until the final year at the special music High School he attended. The piano became central in his life around then and his passion for the jazz being played around the city was all consuming.
The evolution continued after graduating from the famed High School of Music and Art in Manhattan(1956) and briefly attending the Manhattan School of Music. Mayer then became a regularly appearing member of the thriving NYC music scene playing with Kenny Dorham, Tony Scott, Pete LaRoca and Ray Draper. Eventually he recorded with two of the greatest saxophonists ever: Jackie McLean on Strange Blues (Prestige/OJC) and John Coltrane on a session known as the legendary "I Talk With The Trees" date and finally issued in 1990 as part of Coltranes Like Sonny (Roulette). He had a chance to hear, meet and play with some of the foremost musicians working in New York in this formative period. Among them were Jackie McLean, Kai Winding, John Coltrane, Freddy Hubbard, Kenny Dorham, Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Art Taylor, Donald Byrd, Wayne Shorter, Elvin Jones, Bill Evans, Tony Scott, Booker Little, Milt Jackson, Max Roach, George Coleman, John Lewis, Jimmy Garrison and Paul Bley. He studied for brief periods with John Mehegan and Hall Overton.
1959 found Jon working in Paris at `Au Chat Qui Peche as part of a trio with Chuck Israels and Arnie Wise. It happened that the pianist he was working opposite was none other than Bud Powell. That summer included a night at the Blue Note with Chet Baker, Kenny Clarke and Pierre Michelot.
In the 60s and 70s, Mayer remained active, playing in both New York and Europe with the likes of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughan and the Manhattan Transfer, and writing songs recorded by Les McCann, Nancy Wilson and others.
Then due to numerous causes, he all but disappeared, entering a 13-year period of inactivity during which he rarely performed. But by 1991, Mayer was ready to return to music. He settled in Los Angeles and once again seriously pursued his career in the jazz world. People who heard him, initially with McCanns Magic Band and as a leader, were readily impressed with his artistry, characterized by a supple and relaxed rhythmic feel and a keen sense of melodicism in his solos. Here was an authentic jazz musician, an artist who desired, as did Charlie Parker when stating his own personal goal, to play fast and clean and go for the pretty notes.
A wider range of listeners became aware of Mayers talents through his long-overdue debut, 1996s Round Up The Usual Suspects (Pullen Music), a fine piano trio session with two genuine jazz giants: bassist Ron Carter and drummer Billy Higgins. Mayer followed up that dynamic premiere with the release of Do It Like This (A-Records) with guest tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts who has been performing with the pianist at such heralded Southern California clubs as The Jazz Bakery and Steamers Cafe. That was followed by the live recording Rip Van Winkle (Fresh Sound), Full Circle (Reservoir) in March 2002, The Classics (Reservoir), My Romance (Reservoir) Strictly Confidential ( Fresh Sound), So Many Stars (Reservoir) in September 2007 and Nightscape (Reservoir ) in 2009.
Mayers philosophy toward playing and really, his playing itself is deceptively simple.
"Im trying to convey the emotional range and feeling that I perceived in the people that I admired when I started," says Mayer, who goes on to name many of the very best jazz pianists: Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Carl Perkins, Horace Silver. "Those are the guys who got my endorphins kicking, who opened up rooms in my psyche and made me say, I want to do that. I think Ive taken inspiration from them and come up with my own voice."
Now happily married, Mayer is quite busy in Southern California, leading his trio and teaching privately. He says hes having the time of his life.
"Whats great for me is finding new depths," he says. "I feel like the new kid on the block and I have that kind of energy on the bandstand. Its exciting to feel that Im only now beginning to grow and explore my potential