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 Coltrane’s 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.