Essay, Research Paper: Fats By Navarro


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The story begins in Key West, Florida where Theodore "Fats" Navarro
was born of mixed Cuban-Black-Chinese parentage on September 24, 1923. His
musical training began early with piano lessons at age six, but he did not start
taking music seriously until he took up the trumpet at age thirteen. He became
good during his high school years. He also played tenor saxophone and played
briefly with Walter Johnson's band in Miami. Apparently Fats did not care much
for Key West. He was once quoted as saying "I didn't like Key West at all.
I'll never go back." So, after graduating high school, he joined Sol
Allbrights's band in Orlando, so Fats traveled with him to Cincinnati, and took
further trumpet lessons from an Ohio teacher. He then went on the road with
Snookum Russell's Indianapolis orchestra. Russell's group, a band well known in
the area in the 1940s, proved to be very good for Fats. It was a place where he
developed, experimented, and made mistakes that no one would remember before
heading on to the national stage. Fats stayed with Russell for about two years
(1941-42) and became their trumpet soloist. Fats worked next with Andy Kirk and
his Kansas City "Clouds of Joy." Here he made a friendship with
trumpeter Howard McGhee. Fats role in the Andy Kirk band explains this story
retold by Billy Eckstine describing how Fats moved over to his band. Dizzy
Gillespie left my band in Washington, D.C. He told me to go over to hear Andy
Kirk, because there was a fellow with Kirk named Fats Navarro. 'Take a listen to
him,' said Dizzy, 'he's wonderful!' So I went out to the club, and the only
thing Fats had to blow was behind a chorus number. But he was wailing behind
this number, and I said to myself, 'This is good enough this'll fit.' So I got
Fats to come by and talk it over, and about two weeks after that he took Dizzy's
chair, and take it from me, he came right in ... Great as Diz is ... Fats played
his book and you would hardly know that Diz had left the band. 'Fat Girl' played
Dizzy's solos, not note for note, but his ideas on Dizzy's parts and the feeling
was the same and there was just as much swing. Eckstine's band was very
successful, due to Eckstine's romantic vocals, and the most musically advanced
voice. Besides Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, the band included at one time
or other during a four year span a lineup of future stars that is very well
known in all of jazz: Kenny Dorham, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray,
Gene Ammons, Lucky Thompson, Bud Johnson, Frank Wess, Charlie Rouse, Sonny Stitt,
Leo Parker, Cecil Payne, Tadd Dameron, Jerry Valentine, Tommy Potter, Art Blakey,
and Sarah Vaughan were some of the more famous to pass through the band. The End
Comes Somewhere along the way, Fats contracted tuberculosis, which is usually a
slow developing malady. The combination of his drug habit, and the TB led to a
sharp decline in his health and a decrease of his musical activity over the last
seventeen months of his life. He nevertheless went on the road one last time
with the Jazz at the Philharmonic tour for about seven weeks in February and
March of 1949. Fats had been described as coughing uncontrollably and appearing
physically drained during this period. Theodore "Fats" Navarro died on
July 7, 1950 in a New York City hospital.
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