Lee Morgan: His Life, Music and Culture Tom Perchard Hardcover; 256 pages ISBN: 1845532058 Equinox 2006
This is the first biography of Lee Morgan (1938-1972), an influential trumpeter who made a major impact on the jazz scene during his rather brief life. Author Tom Perchard not only details his career and analyzes his performances, but also examines Morgan's youth in Philadelphia, his personal life (heroin addiction, his difficulties with women, overconfidence) and the trumpeter's social activism late in his career. A prodigy on his instrument, Morgan was hired by Dizzy Gillespie and ended up recording as a leader for Blue Note at the age of 18 after Gillespie tried to interest Alfred Lion in recording his own big band. Gaining international exposure while touring with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the trumpeter had a surprise hit with the album The Sidewinder, though his descent into heroin use nearly ended his career for good by the mid '60s. Slowly rebuilding his life and changing his approach to playing, he was in the midst of a comeback when he was shot to death by a former lady friend in the night club Slugs' between sets.
Perchard's greatest strength is his ability to blend together elements of Morgan's life, incorporating numerous interview excerpts (many of which he conducted himself) and perceptive analysis of Morgan's recordings. When he discusses the cultural background of the times, Perchard occasionally gets a bit bogged down, but never enough to lose the reader's interest. Readers will learn a lot about Morgan's distrust of the record label owners and music publishers, his odd relationship with Art Blakey, the troubled relationships with the women in his life, his wasted years as an addict and eventual rebound. Morgan's efforts to get more work for Black musicians in television through organized protests and his contributions as a jazz educator late in his life are also explored in depth. Recommended.
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinet player, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto sax player they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.
He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.
Even though he died before I ever sang professionally, he remains my inspiration and all my CDs are dedicated to him. I like to think that he'd like my music, since it's built on the foundation he handed down to me.