Jon Pemberton is a Minneapolis/St. Paul based jazz musician, enjoying an active career as pianist, trumpeter, composer, and private lesson instructor. Born in the small town of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, Jon’s interest in music was evident at an early age. He began his musical studies with piano lessons at age 6. Guitar lessons followed at age 10, and trumpet studies began at age 11. Jon also sang and acted in local college productions. While in seventh grade, Jon’s parents arranged auditions with local university piano professors. Jon was accepted into the private lesson programs at Moorhead State and St. Cloud State universities, and began traveling two hours for weekly piano lessons. During these early years, Jon also played trumpet in his school’s concert and marching bands, and at his family’s church. In high school, Jon formed his first jazz combo. Upon graduating from high school in 1979, Jon moved to St. Paul to continue his musical studies at Macalester College. At Macalester, Jon was trumpet soloist and arranger for the Mac Jazz big band and section leader for the Macalester Symphony orchestra. In addition, he was a member of various jazz combos as well as pianist for the Macalester Dance Troupe. Jon graduated from Macalester in 1983 with a degree in trumpet performance. After graduating from college, Jon began a career in private teaching (brass and piano) which lasts to this day. He has taught thousands of students, many of whom perform in the area’s top youth orchestras, and some of whom have gone on to their own professional careers. Jon also began his performance career, focusing on the trumpet. He soon landed gigs with many of the area’s top bands including Tribute to Mingus, Shangoya, Skatet, Size 6, Children of the Night, Imp Ork, Carei Thomas Neighborhood, Pat Moriarty/Ellen Lease, and the George Avaloz quintet. In addition, Jon played in various settings with a who’s who of top Twin Cities musicians, including Bobby Peterson, Dave Karr, Gary Berg, Irv Williams, Eddie Berger, Billy Peterson, Gary Raynor, Jay Epstein, Phil Hey, Chris Lomheim, and many others. Jon has also worked with nationally known artists Captain Jack McDuff, David “Fathead” Newman, and Belinda Underwood. Jon formed his own jazz quintets in the 1990’s, The PemberTones and Tribute to Lee Morgan, both heard regularly at the Artist’s Quarter, a top local jazz club that closed it’s doors in 2013. In addition to trumpet gigs, Jon returned to his piano roots when he had the good fortune of befriending local jazz piano giant, Bobby Peterson. Bobby generously offered Jon jazz piano lessons, at no charge. With his strong background in classical piano technique and jazz trumpet improvisation, Jon proved a quick study, and was soon landing jazz piano gigs in addition to his trumpet gigs. In his quintet, The PemberTones, Jon alternated on trumpet and piano, while Bobby took turns on saxophone and piano. In 2006, Jon was hired as music director for Mercy Seat Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. During his two and a half year tenure, Jon composed 3 original jazz liturgies. He was also in charge of hiring the best local jazz talent for the weekly services. Over the years, Jon has been featured as sideman on many recordings, including George Avaloz “The Highest Mountain,” John Devine “A Little ‘o That,” Mike Olson “Incidental,” SkaTet “Skarmegeddon” and “American Ska-thic,” Recessive Traits “Sex Cells,” Paul Renz “Everlasting,” Natalie Lovejoy “Wish I Could Fall,” and John David “Letters from America.” Jon released his debut piano CD in 2010. Entitled “On the Edge,” it’s a swingin’ piano trio featuring eight original compositions, two Bobby Peterson tunes and a Thelonious Monk classic. Jon receives excellent support from first-call Twin Cities sidemen, Gary Raynor (bass) and Jay Epstein (drums). Jon released his debut trumpet CD in 2016, “Now Hear This!”, a swingin’ quartet date, recorded live at the Artist’s Quarter in 2008. The band, in fine form throughout, features tenor saxophonist Jim Marentic, bassist Tom Lewis, and drummer Kenny Horst. The hard bop/free bop session includes two Pemberton originals, two seldom heard standards, and tunes by Ornette, Monk and Mingus. Jon continues to perform and teach today.
- Nicholas Lowell Burke
- MELODY GUY