Currently viewing the tag: "Lee Morgan"

By Greg Lehmann

“I Called Him Morgan” is a moving tribute to the legendary musician Lee Morgan. Documentary filmmaker Kasper Collin has given us the chance to finally get some idea as to what led up to the tragic killing of Lee Morgan at the hands of his (common-law) wife Helen back in Feb. 1972 at the now defunct jazz venue Slugs, then located on 3rd St. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. With the help of a sound recordings made by an adult education teacher / radio host and jazz enthusiast who discovered inadvertently that one of his students had been married to a jazz musician, he then asked what his name was and was told that his name was Lee to which he replied – ” Lee Morgan ? ” Helen affirmed this to be true, which led to the educator – Mr.Larry Reni Thomas of Wilmington, N.C. requesting that he conduct an interview with Helen and she replied that she would think about it. She eventually did contact Mr. Thomas and proceeded to tell him on tape in a series of interviews about how the two met and how their relationship developed up to and including that fateful final day that ended Lee Morgan’s life. There were numerous noteworthy musicians who were interviewed for this documentary, including – Wayne Shorter, Jymie Merritt, Larry Ridley, Billy Harper, and Paul West. There is extensive use of the B & W photos of legendary Blue Note Records co-owner Francis Wolff, in addition to numerous clips featuring Lee Morgan along side his fellow musicians who performed with him in the Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers ensamble. The director Kasper Collin must be credited for including extended musical excerpts in his production. The film is a must see for any true lover of Lee Morgan’s trumpet playing, in addition to which it provides compelling insight to one of the jazz world’s greatest human tragedies. The film is currently being screened in N.Y.C. at the Lincoln Center Film Society venue on 65th St. bet. Broadway and Amsterdam Ave. (south side of the street). Starting on March 31, it will be screened at the Metrograph Theater at 7 Ludlow St. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Check their websites or call for further details. 

Here’s the trailer to the documentary “I Called Him Morgan.”:

Here’s the website for Film Society Lincoln Center and where you can learn more of the public screenings of “I Called Him Morgan.”

Here’s the homepage (Check Calendar link) for the Metrograph Theater, in case you cannot make it to Lincoln Center.

Greg Lehman- Is a multi-diciplinary artist and performer, who works as a teacher in NYC and has been an avid collector of (mostly Jazz) records for most of his adult life.

If you have any questions for Greg concerning the review, please use the comment section here.

TheSixthSenseCover

Every jazz fan knows how great of a special talent trumpet player Lee Morgan was and is very aware of all his enormous achievements, considering the short career he had. He managed to record 30 albums as a leader and was mostly known for the “Sidewinder” album but one that is almost never spoken about is “The Sixth Sense” album. This 1969 album was loaded with both healthy groovy improvising and strong spiritual bluesy songs. The first 6 songs are from the original recording and the last three bonus songs were recorded prior in November 7th of 1967. Every single song can stand on its own and has its special uniqueness to it, they are all very different in in every sense. All real jazz lovers should have this album in their collection, its a must! Not to mention, this precious album has a great historical importance that can be very beneficial for qualified teachers of late 1960’s American culture since it reflects the times and mood of the country in a critical point of its history, enjoy!

About the album:

Lee Morgan wrote music that is both enjoyable and intriguing. Hits such as “The Sidewinder” and “Ceora” contain catchy melodies that bounce and sway. It’s the kind of music that stays popular through many generations. Five of his originals appear on this reissue of the trumpeter’s 1968 album; three previously unissued tracks from another recording session have been added. Born in Philadelphia July 10, 1938, Lee Morgan was surrounded by good music. By the age of 18 he was working in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band. Two separate tenures with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers extended his jazz education and armed the trumpeter/composer with the tools he needed to create music that would have a lasting impact. Sadly, he was murdered in 1972 by a girlfriend; Morgan was only 33. Over two dozen Blue Note albums and a handful on other labels remain as a testament to the trumpeter’s creative spirit.Remastering with a 24-bit resolution gives the album’s sound an excellent quality. The first six tracks were recorded November 10, 1967 at the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, while the last three come from a September 13, 1968 session. Tenor saxophonist Frank Mitchell and drummer Billy Higgins appear on both recording dates. The first session finds three horns (Morgan, McLean, Mitchell) passing the solo torch from one to another while keeping the mood cool and applying a little tension as directed by the….Read More

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Lee Morgan was a Jazz giant and could be considered as one of the very best trumpeters that this musical art form ever produced. In my very own opinion, he is the best and of course my favorite. But with all the amount of recognition he had achieved while he was alive, the same could not be said of Lee Morgan after his tragic death in 1972 at the tender age of 33 years of age. Unlike Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown and many others, he has simply been forgotten. Not for me though and as the Jazz Con Class listeners know very well, I have the “Lee Morgan Playlist” which plays practically every day. I personally have all 30 albums (CD’s) of Lee Morgan as a leader and countless others as a sideman. The problem, I feel, is the lack of search material on the internet concerning information about Lee Morgan. For instance, there is no real “Official” website dedicated to him at all. I’m sure that Lee Morgan fans are stunned by this fact and wonder why this legend has been forgotten. More can be done for certain but I also feel that this great Jazz musician will be remembered in a more dignified manner in the near future.

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Courtesy of New York Daily News

With this in mind, I would like to introduce Lena Sherrod to all the readers here. Lena Sherrod is, like me, an avid Lee Morgan fan also but on a much greater scale. Lena took that extra step to make sure that Lee Morgan will never be forgotten forever. In 2006 she made the space available and created a Jazz gallery in dedication to Lee Morgan and she named it the SOM Jazz Gallery (Shrine Of the Masters Jazz Gallery). This article written on the 40th year celebration of Lee Morgan’s death explains further. There is also a post here that shows you images from inside the gallery itself for those interested in visiting. I read both articles also and said to myself, “Why don’t I make some type of contribution towards the recognition and preservation of Lee Morgan.” I figured, why don’t I call Lena Sherrod and set up some type of interview with her so the readers here can learn more about the SOM Jazz Gallery and about Lee Morgan himself, since Lena was actually a friend of his. I called her, we spoke for a while on the phone, I explained the online Jazz station here and asked her if she would be interested in an “online interview” with me. An online interview is where I would prepare a questionnaire for her and email it to her. She would then answer the questions and email her answers back to me. She happily accepted this “online interview” and with absolutely no hesitation at all! Wow, fantastic! I sent the questionnaire to Lena and here is the result, the whole interview:

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Courtesy of SteveHoffman.tv

1st.Question/Introduction:

Hello Lena, I would like to thank you again for taking the time off to answer this questionnaire. The Jazz Con Class listeners and anybody else interested would like to thank you also. Ok to begin, my first and most appropriate question would concentrate on a short bio of yourself and an introduction to the SOM Jazz Gallery. So, can you provide the readers here with this information please?

Lena Sherrod’s answer:

I have been a Jazz enthusiast since I was a teenager. A few years after I relocated to New York in the sixties, I founded SPEUJM, Inc.([pronounced SPOO Jim] Society to Prevent Excess Unemployment for Jazz Musicians) and began producing/presenting Jazz concerts in Brooklyn, Greenwich Village and Harlem, mainly because many of my friends were musicians and were not working as regularly as they should have been, given their enormous talent.

I later moved on to other callings, including the Civil Rights Movement and then a two-year sojourn in Africa. I was on my way back to the U.S. by way of Paris when I learned of Lee Morgan’s murder while chatting with the saxophonist from Philadelphia who was playing with drummer Sunny Murray at Le Chat Qui Peche, a popular Jazz club in Paris. Lee and I had been close, so I was more than upset by the news.

A few years ago, when I retired from my position as finance and careers editor at ESSENCE magazine, I decided to research a book on Lee Morgan and was surprised to learn of the abundance of albums he had recorded. So I put the book project aside and began collecting his albums, buying them primarily on EBay from sellers around the world, many from Europe, Japan and even China.

I had the album covers framed, beginning with his recordings when he was with Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band to his first album as a leader in 1956—Lee Morgan Indeed!—to his last record date as a sideman with organist Charles Earland in 1972; and I hung then chronologically in a space in my home that had just been renovated.

After reading an interview with Lee that ran in Downbeat magazine in 1972 where he remarked that Jazz artists “should have shrines dedicated to them just like they have shrines in Europe to Beethoven and Bach,” I decided to name the space The Shrine of the Masters Jazz Gallery/Home of the Lee Morgan Legacy Exhibit.

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Courtesy of SteveHoffman.tv

2nd Question: As mentioned in the New York Daily News article, you met Lee Morgan approximately in 1967 and became friends with him. Can you tell the readers here a little more about the character of Lee Morgan and also give them a sort of feel of the Jazz scene in those days? The reason I ask the second part of this question, is because most Jazz fans who listen to Classic/Tradional Jazz now were either too young when these giants were playing or simply weren’t born yet.They want to somehow picture themselves being there in person and listening to these gifted musicians performing.

Lena Sherrod’s answer:

In addition to being a masterful trumpeter, Lee was a gifted raconteur, with a quick wit and a really sharp mind. When I met him, he was playing at the Blue Coronet in Brooklyn with greats like pianist Cedar Walton, drummer Billy Higgins, bassist Reggie Workman.

Back then, musicians usually had a weeklong engagement at a club, from Tuesday until Sunday, playing about four sets a night, usually hitting the bandstand around 9 p.m. and ending around 4 a.m., Some clubs had a cover charge, others did not, and you could sit and listen to as many sets as you wanted without having to pay another minimum or another cover charge. But today, understandably, club owners have to pay musicians more than they did back then, so they have to charge more and try to get as many people as possible in for two or three sets.

During that time, you could catch, say, Monk at the Five Spot, dash a few blocks west and catch Miles at the Village Vanguard and then go to the East Village and catch Lee Morgan or Freddie Hubbard or Jackie McLean or Sun Ra at Slugs’.

Those were truly the nights when the giants of Jazz walked the earth!

YoungLeeMorgan

Courtesy of SteveHoffman.tv

3rd Question:

Getting back to the SOM Jazz gallery, can you give the readers here a visual, in detail, of this sanction, where all Jazz entusiasts can visit and travel back into time?

Lena Sherrod’s answer:

The SOM Jazz Gallery is a rather compact space, about 15 feet by 50 feet, located on the garden floor of a Harlem brownstone. On entering you see  photos of Lee, including one from his 1956  high school yearbook—Philadelphia’s Jules E. Mastbaum Vocational-Technical School—where his hobby is listed as: “Collecting jazz records” and his ambition: “To be a jazz trumpet player.” The covers of the more than 130 albums on which Lee Morgan was the leader or sideman are hung grouped by the year of recording. There is a directory of musicians with the year and number of albums on which they perform; photos of Lee with various musicians, collages of musicians, an “I Remember You” memorial collage wall, a hanging trumpet and other items. A visitor is given a guided tour of the exhibit and they also get to sit and enjoy a video of Lee Morgan performing with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Live in Belgium in 1958 or another video.

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4th and Final Question:

To finalized this short but very informative interview, can you give the readers here your honest opinion of the treatment of Lee Morgan, in other words, do you feel that Lee Morgan was under appreciated for his musical achievements and/or do you think that classic/traditional Jazz has been under appreciated as a whole here in America?

Lena Sherrod’s answer:

I do not think Lee was fully appreciated for his artistry and his achievements. Case in point: When “The Sidewinder” crossed over and became a commercial success, many Jazz “purists” tried to put his music down, overlooking the fact that his repertory of compositions and his recordings ran the gamut—from blues to bossa to funky to avant-garde. But Jazz, in general, is not as appreciated in America as it is in Europe and Japan. 

Way back in the day—before the advent of Bebop—Jazz had a more populist appeal. That was when people went out to ballrooms and dance halls to hear the swing bands and would dance to the music.

But, hey, such is life.

Information on SOMJazz Gallery:

(SOM viewing hours are by appointment only)

Call: 212-368-9588 or

Email Lena Sherrod: SOMJazzGallery@aol.com.

SearchForANewLandFeatured

This has to be the most underrated Jazz album ever! Only true Lee Morgan fans know the supreme quality of this album. Just take a look at the supporting cast, Wayne Shorter on tenor, Herbie Hancock on piano, Grant Green on guitar, Reginald Workman on bass and my favorite Billy Higgins on drums, wow!! It’s one of those albums that nobody talks about but only gets 5-Star ratings. Why, you ask, I cannot answer it. Maybe the title of the album somehow throws one off, I don’t know! It’s okay with me though, there are many who are listening to Jazz Con Class here and are new to Jazz. This is for them, the name of the album is “Search for a New Land” and was recorded on February 15, 1964. Check the schedule link for play times, enjoy!

About the album:

This release is something of a departure for the bold trumpet stylist. After the Latin-tinged dance-floor jams of THE SIDEWINDER (released about six months prior to this disc), Morgan turns somewhat reflective. The music is quieter, with a good deal of structural space and restrained, almost expressionistic playing. The title track opens the album and evokes a mood of poignancy and careful balance, like a Japanese painting. Even the more up-tempo numbers like “The Joker” and “Mr. Kenyatta” are relaxed and thoughtful, the richly textured passages unfolding in a way that seems both organic and tightly disciplined. Morgan’s playing maintains its articulate brightness, but his notes and phrases are carefully shaded. This is matched by Wayne Shorter’s sax work (also simultaneously edgy and lyrical), Grant Green’s glowing guitar and Herbie Hancock’s atmospheric contributions. Lee should also be recognized as a significant composer……Learn More

 

There have been many combinations of Jazz musicians who have collaborated to make great albums, studio and/or live, this occurs very frequently with Jazz musicians. Its a great opportunity for them to interact and expand their talent even further. Not to mention, very challenging for them in an educational manner, since the improvisational nature of Jazz allows them to experiment with different sounds and techniques. These albums, which can be characterized as jam sessions, are the main reason why Jazz flourishes and only becomes better. I have put together a special playlist (Jazz presentation) on an incredible trumpet and tenor sax combination and which I feel, could possibly be the best ever! In my opinion, of course but I will make the effort and maybe I might just convince some of the listeners here on Jazz Con Class. Either way everyone will win! This dynamic dual consists of Lee Morgan (Trumpet) and Wayne Shorter (Tenor Sax). From 1959 they were playing together, thanks to Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers project. The name of the album they first jammed together was “Africaine” and will be where this special playlist begins but there will be much more, as they recorded mostly together as Jazz Messengers. When Wayne Shorter released his debut album, “Introducing Wayne Shorter” Lee Morgan was there to add his support. Morgan and Shorter worked together on two albums after leaving the Jazz Messengers and continued working on their own as band leaders, creating the highest quality of Jazz possible, constantly innovating and most of all, establishing themselves as music writers. Two great improvisors that compromised themselves perfectly, outstanding stuff! The Jazz Con Class listeners are really going to love this presentation, check the schedule link for play times, Enjoy!

Here’s a great video of them playing together:

The newest featured album is just another perfect example of the many styles Avant-Garde Jazz had to offer to its listeners. It also points towards the direction in which Jazz took in the 70’s. The synthesizer began to have more of a presence and was more trendier. The old guard of Jazz musicians had to make an adjustment to the demands of a new generation. The newer Jazz musicians had to incorporate the challenging new electrical sound to the traditional Jazz sound. This album was one of the earliest (1969), “The Turning Point” playlist will be featured indefinitely, check the schedule link for when it will be airing.

More on the Album:

Blues-based and funky, soul-jazz isn’t known for encouraging wildly eclectic playing in its musicians. And while Lonnie Smith’s TURNING POINT is by no stretch an experimental outing–it sticks to the basic structures of the soul-jazz genre–there is plenty of adventurous playing within those confines. In large part, this is attributable to the superb personnel here, which includes trumpeter Lee Morgan…..Read More

Biography of Lonnie Smith (NOT to be confused with Lonnie Liston Smith):

He was born in Lackawanna, New York, into a family with a vocal group and radio program. Smith says that his mother was a major influence on him musically, as she introduced him to gospel, classical, and jazz music. He was part of several vocal ensembles in the 1950s, including the Teen Kings. Art Kubera, the owner of a local music store, gave Smith his first organ, a Hammond B3.[2]

Smith’s affinity for R&B melded with his own personal style as he became active in the local music scene. He moved to New York City, where he met George Benson, the guitarist for Jack McDuff’s band. Benson and Smith connected on a personal level, and the two formed the George Benson Quartet, featuring Lonnie Smith, in 1966.

After two albums under Benson’s leadership, It’s Uptown and Cookbook, Smith recorded his first solo album (Finger Lickin’ Good) in 1967, with George Benson and Melvin Sparks on guitar, Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax, and Marion Booker on drums. This combination remained stable for the next five years……..Learn More

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