Theodore “Fats” Navarro (September 24, 1923 – July 6, 1950) was an American jazz trumpet player. He was a pioneer of the bebop style of jazz improvisation in the 1940s. He had a strong stylistic influence on many other players, including Clifford Brown.
Navarro was born in Key West, Florida, of Cuban, African, and Chinese descent. He began playing piano at age six, but did not become serious about music until he began playing trumpet at the age of thirteen. He was a childhood friend of drummer Al Dreares. By the time he graduated from Douglass High School, he wanted to be away from Key West and joined a dance band headed for the Midwest.
Navarro gained valuable experience touring in bands, including Snookum Russell’s territory band, where he met and influenced a young J.J. Johnson. Tiring of the life on the road, Navarro settled in New York City in 1946, where his career took off. He met and played with, among others, Charlie Parker. But Navarro was in a position to demand a high salary and did not join one of Parker’s regular groups. He also developed a heroin addiction, tuberculosis, and a weight problem. (He was nicknamed “Fat Girl” due to his weight and high speaking voice.) These afflictions led to a slow decline in health. Navarro was hospitalized on July 1, 1950 and he died five days later on July 6 at the age of twenty-six. His last performance was with Charlie Parker on July 1 at Birdland.
Navarro played in the Andy Kirk, Billy Eckstine, Benny Goodman, and Lionel Hampton big bands, and participated in small group recording sessions with Kenny Clarke, Tadd Dameron, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Jacquet, Howard McGhee, and Bud Powell.
Navarro died of tuberculosis and heroin addiction in New York City on July 6, 1950, and was survived by wife Rena (née Clark, 1927–1975) and his daughter Linda (1949-2014). He was buried in an unmarked grave, number 414, at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Linden, New Jersey.
In 1982, Navarro was inducted into the DownBeat Hall of Fame.
In September 2002, friends and family members dedicated a headstone for Fats Navarro’s grave. The event of dedication was sponsored by the Jazz Alliance International while the day of it was proclaimed as Fats Navarro Day by the mayor of Linden.
During the ceremony, Linden High School Choir performed “Amazing Grace”, while trumpeter Jon Faddis played Navarro’s “Nostalgia”. The night of the same day, 14 trumpeters joined a stellar rhythm section to honor the Navarro songbook at the Jazz Standard in Manhattan. Faddis, who assembled the section under musical direction from Don Sickler, was accompanied by drummer Billy Drummond, bassist Peter Washington, and pianist James Williams. (wikipedia)
And after his deat the Blue Note label released this 10″ sampler with many hightlights of his recordings vrom the 40´s … what a sound, what a pleasure !
Enjoy it !
WOR Studios, NYC, September 26, 1947
WOR Studios, NYC, August 9, 1949 (02.).
Apex Studios, NYC, September 13, 1948 (03.)
Apex Studios, NYC, October 11, 1948 (05.)
Nelson Boyd (bass)
Tadd Dameron (piano)
Ernie Henry (saxophone)
Fats Navarro (trumpet)
Charlie Rouse (saxophone)
Shadow Wilson (drums)
Kenny Clarke (drums on 03. + 05.)
Wardell Gray (saxophone on 03.)
Roy Haynes (drums on 02.),
Milton Jackson (piano on 05.)
Howard McGhee (saxophone on 05.)
Tommy Potter (bass on 02.)
Bud Powell (piano on 02.)
Sonny Rollins (saxophone on 02.)
Curly Russell (bass on 03. + 05.)
01.The Squirrel (Dameron) 3.00
02. 52nd St. Theme (Monk) 2.51
03. Lady Bird (Dameron) 2.53
04. The Chase (Dameron) 2.55
05. B1 Double Talk (Navarro/McGhee) 5.35
06. B 2 Dameronia (Dameron) 3.02
07. B3 Our Delight (Dameron) 2.58