Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder

19 Feb

Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder

Remembering Lee Morgan on the anniversary of his death in 1972.

Like Clifford Brown 16 years previously, we’re left with conjecture from a trumpeter’s premature death — that and a wealth of great music. Morgan was only 33 when he died, shot by his common-law wife at a New York club, but he accomplished and produced much, despite a prolonged absence to drugs in the midst of his career. He was gone from jazz so long, Morgan said he heard Symphony Sid do a tribute to “the late Lee Morgan.”

As a teen, Morgan played with Dizzy Gillespie, and then, in two stints,  he helped Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers do some of their best work. But he was the leader on 25 albums in his 15-year career, including The Cooker (Morgan was 19 when it was released), The Gigolo, The Rumproller, Cornbread and The Sidewinder, whose single of the same name became his best-known song (link below).

From Ed Williams, on the liner notes to The Sixth Sense: “Lee Morgan has never made an inferior record . . .”

Helen Morgan, who was 13 years older than Morgan, was paroled in 1978. She died in North Carolina in 1996.

Next: Walter Becker

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