Joey Navarro, Best Keys Player Ever!

By | July 1, 2015 at 10:06 pm | No comments | Backstage Jazz, Columns, Feature Stories

By Patte Purcell

Have you ever seen a keyboard player play so fast that his hands blur? Have you ever seen a keyboard player that shakes his hands out when he’s done just to relax them from the sheer intensity? I didn’t even think that was possible, but seeing is believing, and his name is Joey Navarro. My very favorite keyboard player in the world!

Joey is no ordinary keys player. He plays with the top of the top, East Bay Soul, El Chicano, and Tierra not to mention his own band Navarro.

Joey comes from a humble family in Phoenix and he worked the fields before and after school. This is hard work and this is when Joey decided he wanted to be a musician. His early influence and idol was Bobby Espinosa of El Chicano, as Joey says “that’s how I wanted to play organ”. When he was only 7 he got his wish and his parents got him his first organ which he played until age 14 when he switched to piano.

In 7th grade he was solicited by a band to join them. They all showed up to practice at his home to his parents chagrin. As it turned out, his dad decided to listen to them, was impressed and eventually decided to book and manage them. At age 14 he decided to learn to read music, and learned to play jazz piano from Armand Boatman, among others.

At 26 he started his first ‘Joey Navarro Project’ and signed a record deal with Island Records with a jazz album called On the Rocks. He was a big fan of Chick Corea and Jeff Lorber.

He continued to move up and became the musical director for Sister Sledge, which he said was a lot of fun.

In 1998 he got a call from Greg Adams (Tower of Power) to audition for his band in LA. He was referred by Nick Milo who was with Greg’s band when he got a gig with Joe Cocker. Greg gave Joey the job on one condition; that he move to LA. He called his good friend percussionist Johnny Sandoval, who he’d known since he was 14, and they moved to LA together. Word started getting around especially in the Latin music community and he was offered an opportunity to play with Tierra, which was a dream come true for him.

Once he moved to LA his friend Fred Sanchez, the founder and bass player for El Chicano, asked him if he’d like to meet with his idol Bobby Espinoza. Joey was in awe.  Bobby was very impressed with Joey’s style of playing and when his idol passed away Joey was asked to pick up the torch and take his place. That, of course was a huge honor for Joey. However, he had to relearn the organ because Bobby’s style made the Hammond B 3 scream and growl. Joey was up to the task. He continues to play with both groups today.

This is one of the coolest musical stories I’ve ever heard.

About 4 years ago Greg Adams started ‘East Bay Soul’ reminiscent of his days as lead trumpet with Tower of Power. They now have 3 CDs under their belt and tour the country.

In addition to playing with East Bay Soul, El Chicano, and Tierra, Joey also has his own group ‘Navarro’ which plays Latin jazz and gives him a chance to work with some of the greats like Joey Hereda. They play regularly at the Baked Potato in LA.

Most musicians would be content with this amount of success but it’s not enough for Joey. He released his own smooth jazz single “Strawberry Moon” produced by smooth jazz superstar Paul Brown and plans to finish up that CD this year.

He also co-owns a production studio with Brandon Fields called Bamboo Bridge and is currently producing artists including Mario “Q”, a singer of Native American and Chicano descent.

To bring it closer to home, Joey will be playing on Joe Baldino’s new CD The Flow produced by Brian Bromberg.

Joey will be opening the event ‘SUMMER JAZZFEST’ with his hit “Strawberry Moon” where he will also be playing with Slim Man and his band and also Joe Baldino and his band, with special guest blues sensation Diana Bogart.

You are going to get to see Joey’s over the top talent showcased like you’ve never seen it before. In addition to being the most phenomenal keys player I have ever seen, Joey is a delightful, sweet and humble man, a pure joy. I just love working with musicians like this!

You can view more on Joey by visiting his website Joeynavarromusic.com.

For tickets to SUMMER JAZZFEST contact Patte Purcell @ 1-702-219-6777. VIP tickets are $50 and include admission into the VIP Lounge for artists, celebrities and sponsors. $20 for general admission in advance. (VIP tickets are $60 and $30 at the door) We expect this event will sell-out.

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