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Fats Navarro

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...

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