A minute into Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ 1959 standard Moanin’, its bluesy piano refrain is blown open by the piercing burst of a single trumpet note. That is Lee Morgan at 20 years old, soloing with a confidence that would come to define the so-called “hard bop” sound of jazz label Blue Note.
At 18, he had already played with legendary composer Dizzy Gillespie and, by 19, he was accompanying John Coltrane. By 33, he was dead – shot by his partner Helen.
Joining the ranks of pioneering jazz musicians who died too young, like Clifford Brown and Albert Ayler, Morgan never reached household name status like fellow trumpeters Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong or Chet Baker. Yet he was well on his way with an astonishing 25 albums recorded as a bandleader for Blue Note and countless appearances as a sideman.
Read the feature in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 18/01/22]