Fats Navarro headstone
Fats Navarro, one of the greatest jazz trumpeters ever, was buried in an unmarked grave. Thanks to the donations of fans, his daughter Linda raised money for a headstone. Tuesday, September 24, 2002, the day that would have marked the 79th birthday of trumpeter Theodore "Fats" Navarro, family and fans gathered to dedicate the headstone and to celebrate Navarro's contributions to the jazz world. The celebration began at Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, New Jersey, where Fats was buried in 1950 after his untimely death at age 26. After over half a century of being unmarked, a beautiful headstone was placed on the trumpet legend's grave. The black granite stone features a small picture of Fats playing his trumpet, and a quotation: "I'd like to just play a perfect melody--all the chord progressions right, the melody original and fresh--my own."
Chuck Iwanusa, of Jazz Alliance International, whose organization supported the endeavour, introduced Linda Navarro, Fats' daughter, and thanked all those whose contributions made the headstone a reality. Words were spoken by Jazz Historian Ira Gitler, who fondly remembered a Navarro performance he had seen (Navarro playing with Charlie Parker). Gitler also commented on Navarro's virtuosity, long phrases, and his ability to play effortlessly through turnbacks going into and coming out of the bridges of AABA tunes. Fellow trumpeter Dr. Donald Byrd commented on what Navarro passed on to future generations of trumpet players, giving them something to strive for and expand on--a new direction in trumpet playing. Jon Faddis spoke on the tragedy of losing Fats at such a young age, and dared everyone present to imagine what the phenomenal man might have done had he lived longer. Perhaps the most poignant speech was given by Elizabeth Carr, Fats' younger sister. Carr lovingly remembered her brother as being scholarly and witty, and told tales of his first trumpet (bought second-hand for Fats by his mother), his early experimentation with saxophone, his disinterest in piano lessons and his always-present love for music (Fats loved to practice, and he played every instrument he could get his hands on). Musical tribute was paid by the Linden High School Madrigal Choir, in a performance of Amazing Grace; and Jon Faddis ended the ceremony with his own interpretation of Navarro's classic composition Nostalgia, pointing his trumpet at the grave. A reception followed where family, friends and fans fondly discussed Fats over food and drink.
A Tuesday night performance at New York's Jazz Standard night club was a fitting conclusion to the celebration. Fourteen of New York's top trumpet players (Clark Terry, Randy Brecker, Cecil Bridgewater, Don Sickler, Jon Faddis, Tom Harrell, Sean Jones, Brian Lynch, Mondre Moffit, Jimmy Owens, Jeremy Pelt, Claudio Roditi, Jim Rotundi, and Lew Soloff) played two sets of Fats Navarro's original music. Though there was a competitive aspect to the performance (as always seems to be the case between trumpet players), it wasn't an all out "cutting" session. Excellent arrangements of Navarro's music, provided by trumpeter Don Sickler, as well as ground rules laid out by artistic director Jon Faddis, kept players in line. And while the lineup of trumpet players ranged from veterans to young lions and every player had his own individual unique style, each was clearly influenced by Navarro. Compositions performed on the program included Ice Freezes Red, Barry's Bop, Nostalgia, Fat Boy, Fats Blows, Eb Pob, Boperation, and a tour-de-force arrangement of Fat Girl which featured all of the trumpet players. The rhythm section consisted of James Williams, piano; Peter Washington, bass; and Billy Drummond, drums.
--Steve Lambert, Second Floor Music
More information about Fats can be found at The Fats Navarro Website.
Also check out our combo chart "Boperation," a great 2-trumpet tour-de-force sextet arrangement originally performed by Fats and Howard McGhee.
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