Jon was born in New York City in 1938. His mother studied classical music and practiced as he went to sleep each night. He was also 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 Coltrane's Like Sonny (Roulette). 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 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. Some of his compositions were 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 McCann's 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 Mayer's talents through his long-overdue debut, 1996's 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. That was followed by the live recording Rip Van Winkle (Fresh Sound), Full Circle (Reservoir), The Classics (Reservoir), My Romance (Reservoir), Strictly Confidential ( Fresh Sound), So Many Stars (Reservoir) and Nightscape (Reservoir). His good friend Ernie Watts recorded `Nightscape` as part of Live at the Jazz Bakery and pal Jackie Ryan covered `Rip Van Winkle` with a vocal version of that song. Mayer released a `live` solo effort called `The art of the Ballad` on UDJ in 2014.
Mayer's philosophy toward playing and really, his playing itself is deceptively simple.
"I'm 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 I've 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 he's having the time of his life.
"What's 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. It's exciting to feel that I'm only now beginning to grow and explore my potential."