Happy Birthday, Fats Navarro!

Portrait of Fats Navarro, New York, N.Y.
Portrait of Fats Navarro, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great bebop trumpeter Fats Navarro would’ve been 92 today but alas, he died at the young age of 27.

Navarro was born in Key West, Florida, of Cuban-Black-Chinese parentage. 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.[2] 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.

English: Tadd Dameron and Fats Navarro. Photog...
Tadd Dameron and Fats Navarro. Photo by Gottlieb, NYC, between 1946 and 1948.

Tiring of the road life after touring with many bands and gaining valuable experience, including influencing a young J. J. Johnson when they were together in Snookum Russell‘s territory band, Navarro settled in New York City in 1946, where his career took off. He met and played with, among others, Charlie Parker, one of the greatest musical innovators of modern jazz improvisation. 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”). These afflictions led to a slow decline in his health and death at the age of twenty-six. Navarro was hospitalized on July 1 and died in the evening of July 6, 1950. His last performance was with Charlie Parker on July 1 at Birdland.

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