What They Said About Him

Fats Navarro, if death had not cut short his rising career in 1950, would be today a formidable rival of all trumpeters. His powerful attack, his clear and unfettered tone, his original ideas were beginning to be copied by a great many soloists when tuberculosis and drugs cut down this sensitive young man. (Critic, André Francis)
Fats was the nearest thing to a perfect trumpet soloist who could, apparently, execute exactly what he thought. (Critic, Mark Gardner)
As an influence, Navarro was important almost immediately after he first made his presence felt in the mid-1940s Billy Eckstine band. Kenny Dorham was affected early in his career and you could hear Fats in Red Rodney too. Then, of course, came Clifford Brown and through him Navarro has indirectly influenced so many of the young trumpeters playing today. (Critic, Ira Gitler)
He had everything a trumpet player needs -- soul, a good lip, continuity and a good sound, one of those big butter sounds. A guy with as much as he had to work with couldn't have failed if he had remained level-headed. (Trumpeter, Joe Newman)
Dizzy Gillespie is a nice trumpet player, but he's no Fats Navarro. (Pianist, Lennie Tristano)
He was sort of a cherub, big fat jaws and a big stomach, and he was so young, in his early twenties ... I hear he was down to ... one hundred and ten pounds, and he used to be ... 175 at least, and he wasn't tall, just fat, you know. He developed TB, which is how he died, and he wasted away to nothing. (Singer, Carmen McRae)
After we'd get off (work), we'd sit around and talk about music, and the old days up at Minton's when Fat Girl would be blowing away everybody that came through the door. I would tell him shit -- technical shit -- about the trumpet, because see, Fat Girl was a natural musician, a natural genius player and so I would be showing him stuff to play. (Trumpeter, Miles Davis)
Fats ate Miles up every night. Miles couldn't outswing him, he couldn't outpower him, he couldn't outsweet him, he couldn't do anything except take that whipping on every tune. (Saxophonist, Jimmy Health, commenting on jam session encounters at Minton's between Fats and Miles Davis)
Fats Navarro was a spectacular musician because, in a time when some cats arrived on the scene with nothing, he came on with everything: he could read, he could play high and hold anybody's first trumpet chair, he could play those singing, melodic solos with a big, beautiful sound nobody could believe at the time, and he could fly on fast tempos with staccato, biting notes and execute whatever he wanted, with apparently no strain, everything clear. And every note meant something. You know there are those kind of guys who just play a lot of notes, some good, some bad. Fats wasn't one of those: he made his music be about each note having a place and a reason. And he had so much warmth, so much feeling. That's why I say he had everything. (Drummer, Roy Haynes)
I used to try to get other fellows to play with me, and they'd say, "Oh, is Fats in the band? Oh, no!" (Pianist/Arranger Tadd Dameron commenting on the awe that Fats inspired in other musicians)
His sound was the biggest and most moving of any "modern" trumpeter; as a confirmed lover of big sounds, I must confess that this is where I find the modernists most lacking when compared to the masters of "mainstream" jazz ... but Fats (and to a lesser extent, Clifford (Brown)) could hold their own ... Just listen to Fats ... don't you miss that sound today? (Critic/Educator, Dan Morgenstern)
It's just modern music. It needs to be explained right. What they call bebop is really a series of chord progressions. None of us play this bebop the way we want to, yet. I'd like to just play a perfect melody of my own, all the chord progressions right, the melody original and fresh -- my own. (Fats Navarro commenting on bebop and his goals in music)