Lee Morgan - trumpet (1938-72)

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Lee Morgan, a trumpet player of enormous technique and invention, emerged on the scene in the mid-'50s with a sound reminiscent of Clifford Brown, and quickly developed his own style, fusing classic bebop motifs with more modern rhythms, harmonies and melodies. He soon was very much in demand as a side-man an as a leader and he was a typical exponent of the jazz-meets-funk-meets-blues style produced by Blue Note in the 1960's. Born in Philadelphia on July 10, 1938, he began his trumpet studies with a private instructor, and continued them at Mastbaum High School for the Arts, where he also played the alto horn. A fan of jazz from an early age, he was exposed to a wide variety of live music in the vibrant Philadelphia music scene, which had produced such notables as John Coltrane, Benny Golson, the Heath brothers, and many others. He began playing professionally by the age of 15 and in the summer of 1956 he joined Dizzy Gillespie's big band, where he stayed until 1958 when he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Dizzy was always a generous teacher, and allowed his young protégé plenty of solo space. This provided Morgan an excellent opportunity to gain experience before his entry into Blakey's group after Dizzy’s group disbanded. Also in '56, Morgan recorded his first session for Blue Note, Presenting Lee Morgan, his first of nearly 30 albums for the label. While working with the Jazz Messengers, Morgan formed a great partnership with tenorist Benny Golson, and their shared sense of timing and musical rapport is obvious on the album Moanin', both on the title track and on numbers such as Blues March. Morgan shared the Messengers frontline with Golson, Hank Mobley and then Wayne Shorter until a heroin problem forced him to leave the band in 1961, (when he was replaced by Freddie Hubbard). He returned to Philly that year to work with saxophonist Jimmy Heath, among others, and went to New York in 1963 to focus on recording for Blue Note. After another stint with Blakey from 1964-'65, he worked solely as a frontman. With the Blue Note label, Morgan's largest success was 1963's Sidewinder with fellow front man Joe Henderson, followed by notable albums such as Search For The New Land, Tom Cat, Cornbread, The Rumproller and Delightfulee. In addition to his frontman work, Morgan appeared as a sideman on classic jazz albums such as Gillespie's Night In Tunisia, Blakey's Moanin', John Coltrane's Blue Train (in 1957, as a mere 19-year-old), Grachan Moncur's Evolution and dates for others, including Curtis Fuller, Philly Joe Jones, Wynton Kelly, Clifford Jordan, Hank Mobley and Wayne Shorter.
Morgan's death, at only 33, has its place in jazz lore. A girlfriend of his at the time, Helen More, shot him on the stage of the New York City nightclub Slug's on Feb. 19, 1972. Morgan died on the spot.
Recommended recordings:
or download with:    
Sidewinder  Blue Note 46137        
Candy Blue Note 46508  
The Rumproller Blue Note 21229  
The Procrastinator Blue Note 33579  
The Procrastinator
The Best of Lee Morgan Blue Note 91138  
The Blue Note Years: The Best of Lee Morgan
Search for the New Land Blue Note 84169  
Search for the New Land
Cornbread  Blue Note 84222  
The Gigolo  Blue Note 84212  
The Gigolo
Tom Cat Blue Note 84446  
Tom Cat
Taru Blue Note 22670  
Standards Blue Note 23213  
The Sixth Sense Blue Note  
The Sixth Sense
Delightfule [import] Blue Note  
Cooker [import] Blue Note  
Leeway [import] Blue Note  
Live at the Lighthouse Blue Note 35228  
Charisma Blue Note 59961  
Caramba Blue Note 53358  
Infinity Blue Note 97504  
Here's Lee Morgan Koch Jazz  
Take Twelve OJC  
Take Twelve
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