This is the first biography of the jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan (1938-72). He was a prodigy: recruited to Dizzy Gillespie's big band while still a teenager, joining Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers not much after, by his early-20s Morgan had played on four continents and dozens of albums. The trumpeter would go on to cultivate a personal and highly influential style, and to make records - most notably, The Sidewinder - which would sell amounts almost unheard of in jazz. While what should have been Morgan's most successful years were hampered by a heroin addiction, the ascendant black liberation movement of the late-60s gave the musician a new, political impulse, and he returned to the jazz scene to become a vociferous campaigner for black musicians' rights and representation. But Morgan's personal life remained troubled, and during a fight with his girlfriend at a New York club, he was shot and killed, aged 33. Although Lee Morgan lived and died in sensational style, the story told in this book doesn't just stumble between stages, studios, bars and needles; such a narrative couldn't do justice to the richness of the trumpeter's music, nor to the culture from which it came.
Here, then, the events of Morgan's life are presented not just as items of biography, but also as points of departure for wider historical investigations that aim to situate the musician and his contemporaries in changing aesthetic, social and economic contexts. The work draws on many original interviews with Morgan's colleagues and friends, as well as extensive archival research and critical engagement with the music itself.
Tom Perchard was born in 1976. He received his doctorate from the University of London, and he teaches at Goldsmiths College and the University of Westminster. He is a regular contributor to The Wire magazine. This is his first book.