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A Trio of Jazz Trumpet Players

Updated on April 27, 2011

During the mid 1950s two young trumpet players who produced an impressive quality of work died, and a third disappeared in the early ‘60s. These three young players played in the bebop era of jazz during a 20 year period. Their talent and skill could have influenced jazz in many ways had their careers continued

Fats Navarro

Theodore Navarro was born on September 24, 1923 in Key West, Florida. Band-mates nicknamed him Fats because he had a fat sound and an impressive technique. He died 26 years later, from tuberculosis complicated by an addiction to heroin. He played with several great bands, including Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Billy Eckstine, and Lionel Hampton. Navarro was a popular musician and his experience and ability to improvise allowed him to demand a high salary.  He died July 6, 1950.

Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown, “Brownie”, was born October 30, 1930 in Wilmington Delaware, and was an admirer of Fats Navarro. He played the trumpet with a rich, mellow sound.  Brown also had technical ability and won the Down Beat critics’ poll for “Best New Star of the Year” in 1954. At that time he was better known, and considered a better trumpeter, than Miles Davis. He was a master of the bebob style and made several impressive recordings. Brown was committed to clean living and escaped the heroin and alcohol addiction that plagued many players of the time. He was 25 when he died in an automobile accident on June 26, 1956. He was on the way to a job in Chicago, Illinois.

Dupree Bolton

The third trumpet player of this era with superb tone and skill was Dupree Bolton. He was born March 3, 1929 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Fats Navarro was also Bolton’s hero. Bolton’s tone and technique was in the same mold as Navarro and Brown. Bolton was always secretive about his life and didn’t give out many facts. The ones he did give out are vague. He made his first recording in 1944 under an assumed name, and made his last recording in 1963. Bolton used marijuana before he was 16, and was in prison for marijuana possession before he was 21. He played in prison and perfected his musical technique and style by practicing 10 hours a day. After Bolton’s release, he made the record, “The Fox,” with Harold Land. After 1963 his whereabouts were unknown. Part of that time he was in prison for heroin addiction and he spent his last years as a street musician in San Francisco. He died June 5, 1993.

Navarro and Brown were dead before they were 27 and Bolton quit performing in public when he was 34. Navarro and Brown left a recording legacy available today. Jazz radio stations still play their recordings.  Bolton left very little recorded music. What this trio of trumpet players left behind makes fans wish for more. One wonders how three contemporaries whose careers ended at approximately the same age would have influenced jazz over the years.  Between 1940 and 1963, they left brief flashes of brilliance. What effect would they have had on jazz, and what paths would their playing have taken? Videos of them available on the web make those questions even more intriguing.


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    • heanders profile image

      heanders 6 years ago from USA


      I heard about Bolton a short time ago, and Brown's been a favorite for a long time. I thought it was odd how they all quit or died so young.

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 6 years ago

      It doesn't get better than this. Up and awesome.