Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan, born 10 July 1938 and died 19 February 1972. He was an American hard-bop trumpeter. Morgan was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a jazz prodigy and joined the Dizzy Gillespie bigband at 18 and remained a member for 2 years. He began recording in 1956 as a leader, mostly for Blue Note. Later, he recorded 25 albums for the company. Clifford Brown was Morgan’s main influence as a player, and he had been in direct contact with Morgan before Brown’s death. He was also a featured player on many early Hank Mobley records and John Coltrane’s Blue Train. His talent as a soloist, and writer was further developed by his 1958 membership in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Blakey toured with him for several years and he was featured on Moanin (probably Blakey’s most well-known recording). Morgan convinced Blakey to hire Wayne Shorter (a young tenor-saxophonist) to take the Jazz Messengers’ seat after Benny Golson had left. The Jazz Messengers’ classic version, which included Bobby Timmons (left) and Jymie Merritt (right), would record The Freedom Rider. Morgan attempted to get into the higher levels of music in the 1960s. After struggling with heroin addiction, Morgan left the Jazz Messengers in 1960. He eventually quit his job and got clean. After a two year absence, he returned to the music scene. He played on Grachan Moncur III’s avant-garde Evolution album (his favorite work) and experimented on his own recordings, such as the title track Search for the New Land (1964). However, the success of his album, The Sidewinder featuring Joe Henderson prevented his career from developing. That record’s title track reached the top of the pop charts in 1964. It was used as the background music for Chrysler commercials during World Series. Blue Note was compelled to release the “Boogaloo”, a remix of The Sidewinder that had achieved crossover success in a rapidly changing music market. Many Blue Note artists, including Morgan, released albums in the mid-60s with blues-infused tracks. After Freddie Hubbard’s departure, Morgan returned to the Jazz Messengers in 1964. The group had become a sextet, with Curtis Fuller joining. Morgan’s commercial success was not the only reason Morgan continued to record. Search For the New Land, which reached the top 20 on the R, was Morgan’s most popular work.

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