100 Jazz Profiles
1923 - 1950
Trumpeter. Navarro was a supremely gifted trumpet soloist, whose best work compares in speed, clarity of thought and tone with that of Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown. 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.
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 the generation of trumpeters who followed. Navarro was born in Florida and his first professional band was the Southern territory group led by pianist Snookum Russell.
With 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.
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. He also played regularly with Charlie Parker, and many of their broadcast collaborations were recorded and subsequently issued.
Thomas Owens: Bebop: The Music and the Players (New York, Oxford University Press, 1995)
The Fats Navarro Story (Properbox 11) (4CD set)
Suggested track: High on an Open Mike
With bio, links and connections to the Navarro family
on radio 3
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