Here he is in 1945, with Eckstine, on the ballad "Long, Long Journey." solo at the end.
Today's the birthday of Fats Navarro, jazz trumpet hero (1923-1950).
A quick timeline has him growing up in Florida; after high school, hooking in to Snookum Russell's territory band in Indianapolis, joining Andy Kirk in Kansas City and ending up in NYC.
|I think that's Fats in the middle of Snookum's tpt. section|
Roy Eldridge was father to the 1940's generation of trumpet players and Dizzy Gillespie moved it to bop. Like Diz and Roy, Fats, along with Howard McGhee, was able to play with piercing power in the upper register and also seriously address the (chord) changes. Fats and Maggy were foundational for the next generation, as was Freddie Webster (a less brilliant lead player). Throughout the 40's, apart from small group playing, Fats continued to play lead with the best big bands-Earl Hines, Billy Eckstein, Illinois Jacquet, Lionel Hampton.
With no early recordings, we don't know how Fats sounded as a teenager, but we know he learned Dud Bascomb solos from the Erskine Hawkins' band. That's essentially simplified Eldridge territory. Fats' first recorded solo was on "Shorty Boo," with Andy Kirk, which I can't find online. Please post it if you got it.
It wasn't long before he was doing sessions with smaller groups and really digging into the changes. Here he is in a Tadd Dameron sextet: in 1947:
Here's another Dameron group, a year later:
And 1949, with the Metronome All-Stars (the trumpet "chase" is between Fats and Dizzy, despite what the graphics of the video say about Miles).
We'll close with probably the last recording extant of Fats, with Bird, May 1950. It's an air check, so you hear these guys stretch out much more than in the usual 3:00 wax:
A tragic combination of tuberculosis and heroin did in Fats. He wasn't just a "key figure," he was an end in himself.
For everything about Fats, check out this website.