Theodore “Fats” Navarro (September 24, 1923 – July 7, 1950 was an American jazz trumpet player. He was a pioneer of the bebop style of jazz improvisation in the 1940s. He had a strong stylistic influence on many other players, including Clifford Brown.
Navarro was born in Key West, Florida, of Cuban, African, and Chinese descent. He began playing piano at age six, but did not become serious about music until he began playing trumpet at the age of thirteen. He was a childhood friend of drummer Al Dreares. By the time he graduated from Douglass High School, he wanted to be away from Key West and joined a dance band headed for the Midwest.
Tiring of the road life after touring with many bands and gaining valuable experience, including influencing a young J. J. Johnson when they were together in Snookum Russell‘s territory band, Navarro settled in New York City in 1946, where his career took off. He met and played with, among others, Charlie Parker, one of the greatest musical innovators of modern jazz improvisation. But Navarro was in a position to demand a high salary and did not join one of Parker’s regular groups. He also developed a heroin addiction, tuberculosis, and a weight problem (he was nicknamed “Fat Girl”). These afflictions led to a slow decline in his health and death at the age of twenty-six. Navarro was hospitalized on July 1 and died in the evening of July 6, 1950. His last performance was with Charlie Parker on July 1 at Birdland.
Navarro played in the Andy Kirk, Billy Eckstine, Benny Goodman, and Lionel Hampton big bands, and participated in small group recording sessions with Kenny Clarke, Tadd Dameron, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Jacquet, Howard McGhee, and Bud Powell.