Frank Morgan was almost one of the cautionary tales of jazz history; instead, he's become one of its most remarkable survivor stories. A promising Los Angeles alto saxophonist in the '50s, he disappeared from the scene for thirty years as he battled a heroin addiction and served a series of jail terms. Morgan conquered his habit and returned to recording in 1985, turning out a stream of consistently excellent albums in the Charlie Parker-inspired bebop style he'd begun exploring three decades earlier.
Despite a stroke seven years ago, Morgan shows no signs of slowing down. His latest is the second volume culled from a three-night stand at the Jazz Standard in 2003. It charts little new ground but serves up some of the best, most authentic modern bebop you're likely to hear anywhere. The tunes are mostly familiar ones by Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis, along with chestnuts like "Polka Dots & Moonbeams and "Old Folks. While some fresher material would be nice, Morgan, with his clear tone and fluid improvisations, and his superb rhythm section (veterans George Cables on piano, Curtis Lundy on bass, and Billy Hart on drums) have little trouble breathing new life into these old warhorses. Raising the Standard
is another fine effort by one of jazz's most inspiring artists.