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Lee Morgan Biography

10 July 1938, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 19 February 1972, New York City, New York, USA. Prodigiously talented, Morgan played trumpet professionally at the age of 15 and three years later joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band. During this same period he recorded with John Coltrane, Hank Mobley and others. In 1958 the Gillespie band folded and Morgan joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers where he made a tremendous impact not only nationally but around the world, thanks to the group’s recordings. In the early 60s Morgan returned to his home town, where he played in comparative obscurity, but by 1963 he was back in New York, leading his own groups and also working for a while with Blakey in 1964. Morgan’s popularity was enhanced by the success of a recording of his own composition, the irresistibly catchy ‘The Sidewinder’ which helped to spark a jazz funk mini-boom and has remained a dance floor favourite ever since.

Morgan’s trumpet style was marked by his full-blooded vitality, aided by the richness of his tone. Playing with the strictly controlled Blakey band impacted his natural enthusiasm and the resulting tensions created some of the best hard-bop trumpet playing of the period. Indeed, despite the passage of time and the many fine trumpeters to have entered jazz in his wake, only a handful have attained Morgan’s remarkable standards of emotional virtuosity. In the late 60s, Morgan’s career was damaged for a while by personal problems, but a female friend helped him to recover. Unfortunately, this same woman became jealous of a new relationship he had formed and on 19 February 1972, she shot and killed him at the New York nightclub where his quintet was performing.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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