Lee Morgan

One of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time, Lee Morgan (1938-1972) was very prolific during his relatively brief life.

Born in Philadelphia, Lee Morgan was a prodigy, playing professionally by the time he was 15. He joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band shortly after his 18th birthday and toured with Gillespie during 1956-1957. He was considered the natural successor to the recently deceased Clifford Brown, having a similar large sound but developing his own brash and competitive hard-bop style.

Although most of Morgan’s own record dates in his career were for Blue Note, there were a few exceptions. Dizzy Atmosphere, originally made for Specialty, has Morgan featured with other Gillespie sidemen (including trombonist Al Grey, tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell, and pianist Wynton Kelly), performing Benny Golson arrangements. An early version of “Whisper Not,” “Over the Rainbow” and the lengthy “Dishwater” are highlights.

Lee Morgan was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers during 1958-1961, gaining fame in the jazz world. While he had a lower profile for the next couple of years, he recorded Take Twelve for Jazzland in early 1962. For the underrated quintet session with tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan and pianist Barry Harris, Morgan performs originals (several of which deserve to be revived) and sounds in prime form.

In late 1963, Lee Morgan had a surprise hit with “The Sidewinder.” He was back with the Jazz Messengers during 1964-1965 and then resumed his solo career, playing advanced hard bop with an open mind toward the avant-garde and soulful sounds. His life and career were cut short in 1972 when he was shot to death. He was just 33.