Fats Navarro



Theodore "Fats" Navarro was a supremely gifted trumpet soloist, who produced his best work in the second half of the 1940s. He was a central figure in the emergence of bebop and his exciting style, speed, clarity of thought and tone seemed ideally suited to the new style that was rapidly gaining momentum in New York in the 1940s. His main playing and recording career was packed into a mere five years, from 1945, when he left the Andy Kirk Orchestra to join Billy Eckstine's modern jazz big band. Navarro was born in Florida and his first professional band was the Southern territory group led by pianist Snookum Russell. With Andy Kirk and then Eckstine's band he came to national attention. In Eckstine's line-up, he was featured in a similar role to Dizzy Gillespie, who had recently left the band to form his own small groups. After Eckstine's band broke up, Navarro freelanced in a host of small groups in and around New York. He worked with Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Clarke, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Howard McGhee and Eddie Lockjaw Davis. Navarro's individual style offered a third way between the technical bravura of Gillespie and the more measured careful approach of Miles Davis. His finest recordings are with Kenny Clarke, Bud Powell and Tadd Dameron and many critics believe that he produced his finest playing on Dameron's record sessions, soloing on material that was arranged with him in mind. A number of his many broadcast collaborations with Charlie Parker were recorded and subsequently issued. A combination of drug abuse and tuberculosis shortened his life and career, but within the short space of time available to him, he recorded prolifically, and left a sufficient body of work to have become a major influence on trumpeters who followed. Even more than Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro can be regarded as the main influence on a great generation of trumpet players including Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard.

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