The Fats Navarro Story
Over recent months my recommendations seem to arrive by auto-suggestion, as in psychoanalysis. My articles about Peter Ind inspired me to reread part of his book,
Jazz Visions. There he describes the excitement of his first visits to New York. One of the musicians who impressed him was the great trumpeter, Fats Navarro. Sadly Fats was to die, aged 26, before Peter settled in New York.
In 1956 a friend played me some of Fats’ recordings with Tadd Dameron from the late 1940s. I was very impressed. At the time I was beginning to play the trumpet in traditional jazz bands, but I was also discovering bebop and loving this powerful, exciting music. I remember listening to The Squirrel over and over again. Then I heard the 4 wonderful recordings Fats made with Bud Powell in August 1949. I still believe that this was one of the finest recording sessions in the history of our music. I have asked for Dance of the Infidels to be played at my funeral.
The box set which I recommend covers every stage of his short life: the big band solos, the brief spell with Benny Goodman, wonderful studio and live recordings with Tadd Dameron, beautiful solos with Bud Powell and a fascinating live session at Birdland with Charlie Parker and Bud Powell.
As a jazz trumpet player Fats had it all. What struck me first was his beautiful sound, but the fluency of his improvisations and their almost compositional quality is matched
by few other musicians. Even Dizzy could not outshine him.
If you do not want to buy such a full collection there are several excellent CDs which will give you a sample of his work.