I’m not what you’d call a jazz aficionado. Not even close. But the summary for I Called Him Morgan really stood out. A prodigious trumpet talent, shot dead in his early thirties by the wife who only years before had saved him from the crack gutter…
Based around an audio interview with Helen Morgan, Lee Morgan’s wife and eventual assassin, writer, director Kasper Collin uses talking heads from the various ensembles that Lee played with over the years to piece together a revealing portrait of his life and more specifically his music.
A talent from the outset, Morgan was playing with the like of Dizzie Gillespie and John Coltrane from a scarily early age. The lifestyle soon told though and it wasn’t until a meeting with Helen (a mother at thirteen who had moved up from the deep south to New York), that his life turned around. Forever sporting the scars from his time with drugs, Lee’s dalliance with another woman and a seemingly slight argument proved fatal.
I was expecting something more revealing about the woman behind Morgan’s life and death with this one to be honest. The audio recordings from the final interview with her stop frustratingly short with her grandchild interrupting a session to be continued just as she got to talking about the murder. Unfortunately she died the following month so we are really left with scant motivation or explanation for a seemingly senseless act of violence. I Called Him Morgan will likely appeal well to anyone who has more than a passing interest in jazz but for me, meticulous though it is, I wanted some more Helen.