Celebrating Trumpeter Lee Morgan’s Birthday
According to a biography by Steve Huey on the web site All Music:
"A cornerstone of the Blue Note label roster prior to his tragic demise, Lee Morgan was one of hard bop's greatest trumpeters, and indeed one of the finest of the '60s. An all-around master of his instrument modeled after Clifford Brown, Morgan boasted an effortless, virtuosic technique and a full, supple, muscular tone that was just as powerful in the high register. His playing was always emotionally charged, regardless of the specific mood: cocky and exuberant on up-tempo groovers, blistering on bop-oriented technical showcases, sweet and sensitive on ballads."
Huey's biogrphay continues: Edward Lee Morgan was born in Philadelphia on July 10, 1938. He grew up a jazz lover, and his sister apparently gave him his first trumpet at age 14. He took private lessons, developing rapidly, and by the time he was 15, he was already performing professionally on the weekends. After graduating from high school in 1956, Morgan got the chance to perform with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Not long after, Dizzy Gillespie hired Morganin his big band, and afforded the talented youngster plenty of opportunities to solo, often spotlighting him on the Gillespie signature piece A Night in Tunisia.
Morgan's early recording sessions showed him to be a gifted technician who had his influences down pat, but subsequent dates found him coming into his own as a distinctive, original stylist. That was most apparent on the Blue Note classic Candy, a warm standards album completed in 1958 and released to great acclaim.
He recorded a comeback LP for Blue Note called The Sidewinder prominently featuring the Morgan-composed title track, a funky, danceable groover that drew from soul-jazz, Latin boogaloo, blues, and R&B in addition to Morgan's trademark hard bop. It was rather unlike anything else he'd cut, and it became a left-field hit in 1964; edited down to a 45 rpm single, it inched onto the lower reaches of the pop charts, and was licensed for use in a high-profile automobile ad campaign.
Morgan's recording pace tailed off at the end of the '60s, but he continued to tour. He led what turned out to be the last session of his life in September 1971. On February 19, 1972, Morgan was performing at the New York club Slug's when he was shot and killed by his common-law wife, Helen More. Despite his extensive recorded legacy, he was only 33 years old. Many of his unreleased Blue Note sessions began to appear in the early '80s, and his critical standing has hardly diminished a whit.
Check out Morgan's phenomenal sound and technique on Night in Tunisia.