Kasper Collin’s new documentary celebrates the vibrant, turbulent life of the jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan.
“Every listener to jazz has had a few experiences so startling that they are literally unforgettable,” Nat Hentoff wrote in 1960:
One of mine took place during an engagement the Dizzy Gillespie big band had at Birdland in 1957. My back was to the bandstand as the band started playing “Night in Tunisia.” Suddenly, a trumpet soared out of the band into a break that was so vividly brilliant and electrifying that all conversation in the room stopped and those of us who were gesturing were frozen with hands outstretched. After the first thunderclap impact, I turned and saw that the trumpeter was the very young sideman from Philadelphia, Lee Morgan.
Lee Morgan, who was nineteen when Hentoff heard him, had this effect on many people. His sound was bright, brash, and sassy: like James Brown’s early work, it had the seductively strutting arrogance of youth. Morgan was a funky, down-home player, with a penchant for “smeared,” dirty notes, but he was also a subtle and calculating musical thinker who constructed his solos as if they were stories. That synergy of soulfulness and hipster cool defined the so-called Blue Note sound in the fifties and sixties, and Morgan was one of the label’s most celebrated artists. As David H. Rosenthal wrote in his classic study Hard Bop, he was the “quintessential hard-bopper.” Read More