“John Bailey is a great improviser. Since we met as teenagers I've been taken with how natural a musician he is and how deeply his roots go into the tradition of jazz music. He's a joy to listen to!”
- Donny McCaslin
Known as one of the most eclectic trumpet players in New York City, Bailey is an in-demand musician and teaching artist on call for everything from traditional jazz, to R&B and Pop, to classical. He became a member of The Buddy Rich Band while still in college, and his career has included
long-running gigs with Ray Charles, master conguero and bandleader Ray Barretto, The Woody Herman Orchestra and Frank Sinatra, Jr. His work with Latin Jazz innovator Arturo O'Farrill won two Grammy awards for the albums The Offense of the Drum and Cuba - The Conversation Continues. He has played on more than 70 albums and, as a jazz educator, has taught at the University of Miami and Florida International University.
A trumpet prodigy, Bailey's spectacular gifts began to be noticed as a high school musician in 1984 when DownBeat Magazine cited him in its annual Student Music Awards for outstanding performances in both the classical and jazz trumpet categories, noting “Shades of Wynton!” The same year, he was a finalist in the National Foundation for Advancements in the Arts (NFAA) Arts Recognition and Talent Search, along with Donny McCaslin and Bill Charlap; and won the National Association of Jazz Educators’ Youth Talent Contest. Later, as a senior at the Eastman School of Music, he won DownBeat’s Best Instrumental Soloist award.
Looking back, he says, “It all started for me when I discovered Clifford Brown. Clifford was the centerpiece of the golden era of jazz trumpet, and a great place to begin my lifelong study of the instrument. He was influenced by everyone before him, and became an influence on everyone after.”
Bailey, who continues to teach privately, believes that educating the next generation of musicians is essential for any artist. “In American culture, where the arts are often ignored or deemphasized in both schools and the mainstream media, it is up to us, the artists, to inspire an appreciation for great art.” he says. “By keeping performance standards as high as possible and sharing our devotion with others, especially children, we enrich countless lives.”