Lee Morgan

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Lee Morgan (1959)

Lee Morgan (* 10. July 1938 in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania ; † 19th February 1972 in New York City , New York ) was an American jazz - trumpet player , considered one of the most important exponents of the hard bop applies.


The jazz scene in his native Philadelphia produced numerous creative musicians in Morgan's youth: Among the trumpeter's early companions were musicians such as John Coltrane , Benny Golson and the brothers Percy , Jimmy and Albert "Tootie" Heath . In times of de facto racial segregation, Mastbaum High School , attended almost exclusively by black students , was known for its focus on music education .

Lee Morgan was considered an outspoken child prodigy , and with some justification he was trusted to become the legitimate musical heir of Clifford Brown , who died in a car accident in 1956 .

In fact, Morgan was a prominent member of Dizzy Gillespie's big band at the age of 18 . At a concert by the Gillespie band, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff , the owners of the up-and-coming record label Blue Note Records , became aware of the young virtuoso and immediately signed him.

Lee Morgan (left) and Wayne Shorter at Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers

1958 Morgan Gillespie's band left to get the Jazz Messengers of Art Blakey to join. The Messengers line-up with Morgan is generally considered to be among the best in the more than thirty-year history of this style-defining ensemble, and one of the most famous solos in the band's history certainly came from Morgan: on October 30, 1958, the Messengers played the studio version of Bobby Timmons ' Composition Moanin ' a (theme song from Blue Note 84003 ). Morgan's solo has been compared in its uncompromising urgency with the epoch-making West End blues by Louis Armstrong , almost exactly 30 years older .

The power of badness

In his analysis of Morgan's trumpet style, David H. Rosenthal draws an even more illuminating parallel by interpreting this style of playing as an instrumental equivalent to the singing of the soul greats of the time , especially James Brown : “... he had honed his time and timbre to razor sharpness ... ". Even today one can clearly see Morgan's self-staging in photos, which is in fact best expressed in the words of James Brown: Mr. Super Bad .

Like so many young jazz musicians of those years, Morgan also succumbed to heroin addiction , from which he was never completely free until the end of his life, despite many attempts at withdrawal. In 1961 he had to leave Blakey's band for two years and was replaced there by the young Freddie Hubbard . For two years, Morgan's career seemed in decline - he had to leave New York and move to his hometown of Philadelphia.

Commercial win

In 1963 Morgan returned to New York and briefly returned to the Messengers (1964/1965), with whom he also toured in Germany. The recording of The Sidewinder , again on Blue Note in the same year, proved of particular importance . Of the total of 25 LPs that he recorded for the label under his name, the title track on this album alone was to establish Morgan's success with a wide audience. Sidewinder is a catchy, succinctly rhythmic blues theme that was very much in the trend of early funk of the 1960s , especially due to the boogaloo rhythm that was popular at the time . Again, there is a parallel to James Brown and his (somewhat later) pieces I Feel Good or Papa's Got A Brand New Bag . Exceptionally unusual for a jazz recording, Sidewinder even achieved maximum commercial success when automaker Chrysler used the piece in a television commercial in 1965 .

The last few years

Although Morgan could not repeat the success of Sidewinder despite several attempts ( Cornbread , The Rumproller ), he benefited by and large from his now gained popularity. He succeeded in addressing a relatively large audience with his increasingly abstract, modal- oriented avant-garde hard bop .

He used this relatively broad impact to get involved in the civil rights movement as one of the leading figures of the Jazz and People's Movement . In contrast, he was unable to permanently get his private drug and relationship problems under control. During a jealous drama, his wife Helen Morgan shot him dead on February 19, 1972 while performing at Slug’s jazz club in New York .

Morgan's tragic life story is retold in the 2016 documentary I Called Him Morgan by Swedish director Kasper Collin with the help of found footage and new interviews.

Selected discography

With a few exceptions, the following records were released by Blue Note and are now almost all available as CD reissues (some with bonus tracks and alternate takes).

As a band leader

  • 1956 Indeed!
  • 1956 Introducing Lee Morgan (Savoy MG 12091)
  • 1956 Lee Morgan Sextet
  • 1957 Lee Morgan Vol. 3
  • 1957 Candy
  • 1957 The Cooker
  • 1960 Here's Lee Morgan
  • 1960 The Young Lions
  • 1960 Leeway
  • 1960 Expoobident
  • 1962 Take Twelve
  • 1963 The Sidewinder
  • 1964 Search for the New Land
  • 1965 cornbread
  • 1965 The Gigolo
  • 1965 The Rumproller
  • 1966 charisma
  • 1966 Delightfulee
  • 1967 Sonic Boom
  • 1967 The Procrastinator
  • 1967 The Sixth Sense
  • 1968 Caramba!
  • 1968 Taru
  • 1970 Live at the Lighthouse

With Hank Mobley

  • 1956 Jazz Message No. 2
  • 1956 Hank Mobley sextet
  • 1958 Peckin 'Time
  • 1963 No Room for Squares
  • 1965 dippin '
  • 1965 A Caddy for Daddy
  • 1966 Straight No Filter
  • 1967 Third Season

With Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers

  • 1957 Theory of Art
  • 1958 Drums Around the Corner
  • 1958 moanin '
  • 1959 Africaine
  • 1959 At the Jazz Corner of the World
  • 1959 Paris Jam Session
  • 1960 A Night in Tunisia
  • 1960 Like Someone in Love
  • 1960 Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World
  • 1960 Roots & Herbs
  • 1960 The Big Beat
  • 1961 A Day with Art Blakey
  • 1961 impulses !!! Art Blakey !!! Jazz Messengers !!!
  • 1961 The Freedom Rider
  • 1961 The Witch Doctor
  • 1961 Tokyo 1961
  • 1964 's Make It
  • 1964 Indestructible
  • 1965 Soul Finger
  • 2020 Just Coolin '

With Johnny Griffin

  • 1957 A Blowing Session

With Jimmy Smith

  • 1957 Jimmy Smith's House Party
  • 1958 The Sermon!

With John Coltrane

With Wayne Shorter

  • 1959 Introducing Wayne Shorter
  • 1960 The Young Lions
  • 1964 Night Dreamer

With Andrew Hill

  • 1968 Grass Roots
  • 1970 Lift Every Voice

With Lonnie Smith

  • 1968 Think! (Blue note)
  • 1969 Turning Point (Blue Note)

With Reuben Wilson

  • 1969 Love Bug (Blue Note)



  • David Rosenthal: Hard Bop - Jazz and Black Music 1955-1965 . Oxford University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-19-508556-6
  • Jeffery S. McMillan: Delightfulee - The Life and Music of Lee Morgan . University of Michigan Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-472-11502-0

Web links