Don Lanphere: Conversation with Stuart A. Varden
(28-Dec-1998)
(Editorial review provided by Don Rose)

Don Lanphere, white, was born and raised in Wenatchee, Washington, came to Chicago about age 18 to go to Northwestern. Started playing tenor early and was influenced by Coleman Hawkins. Later he was turned onto Bird and Dexter Gordon. He copied their solos from records. He attended Northwestern University for 2.5 year. But at the invitation of a musician friend, Johnny Bothwell, he came to NYC to check out the New York jazz scene. They opened at the "Baby Grand" on 125th Street in Harlem. He was into drugs. This was 1948 and he was just 20 years old.

He met Chan Richardson soon after arriving in New York. She wasdating Johnny, but one night after a gig Chan went home withDon, infuriating Johnny, who fired him. Chan's place was at 7West 52nd Street, across from the 3 Deuces where he and otherswould go to take drugs during intermissions. When Chan left Don andreturned to Bird, Don rented a room in the same apartment building where Chan, her mother and daughter lived. Chan was on the first floor and Don on the 3rd floor. Don's room had black and red walls.

The first session with Earl Coleman and Navarro was in the fall of 1948. Max Roach and others were skeptical of the "new guy" and so the high tempoed "Move" was a test of his musicianship. He passed.

A year later, Bob Weinstock wanted him to record a sessionand asked who he would like to have on the date. He jokinglysaid "Fats Navarro and Bird's rhythm section" and that'swhat he got. He says that he wrote the lines to "WailingWall" and "Stop", not Fats. Fats did not know any of the material prior to the day of the session. Fats was already visibly ill. "Infatuation" is based on "Gone With The Wind", not "Everything Happens to Me" as is often stated. He hassubstantially written and recorded a melody line to "Go".

He characterizes Fats as "very gentle", but was a great player. He suggests that while Dizzy had more influenceon jazz as a whole, Fats probably had more influence onthe development of jazz trumpet style.

In the early 1950s he went on the road with Woody's Band.Was busted at various times and eventually gave up fulltime playing in favor of running a record store in Seattle with his wife. They have been married now for 45 years. He just turned 70 and is now a practicing Christian.

He records and teaches jazz improvisation regardless ofthe instrument. He quotes Bird as saying "Learn the changes, then forget them -- just play music."

Linda Navarro, Fats' daughter, was an attorney in Seattle.She now works as a clerk to a judge in Seattle. She has a son, Amilcar, who plays guitar. Thus, Fats has a grandson.