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Fats Navarro: 'The Fats Navarro Story'


MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: That's the trumpet of Fats Navarro, one of those sad, "what if" figures in jazz. He was a truly, brilliant talent, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 26. The album The Fats Navarro Story is a comprehensive reflection of five short years, during which he recorded prolifically. A.B. Spellman, that's why we are including this collection in NPR's Basic Jazz Record Library.

A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Well Murray, it's our good fortune that between 1945 and 1950, Navarro recorded with many of the major soloists of the era, as well as almost all of the beboppers. So when you get this set, you're also getting the rare recordings of the Billy Eckstine Orchestra, and a fairly comprehensive cross-section of the best bebop musicians.


SPELLMAN: Although Fats Navarro and Dizzy Gillespie were contemporaries, there were key differences that set them apart. Fats was a much better technician — his sound was fuller, his diction more crisp, his range more secure. He wasn't as bold as Gillespie, so he could be more meticulous in the structure of his solos. He also had an attacking, pianistic phrasing that was firm, but seductively beautiful.


SPELLMAN: So, what if? What if Fats Navarro had lived a long and healthy life? Of course, we'll never know, but here's how he sounded when tuberculosis had wasted him to nothing on an air-check from Birdland, a week before his death.


SPELLMAN: Not bad for a dying man.

HORWITZ: It's The Fats Navarro Story. It's on the Proper label, and it is included in NPR's Basic Jazz Record Library. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

SPELLMAN: And, I'm A.B. Spellman.

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