‘I Called Him Morgan’ is a new documentary about the brilliant jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and his untimely demise at the hands of his wife Helen.
Filled with great footage of jazz greats like Art Blakey and Warner Shorter performing with Morgan, as well as classic behind the scenes photos it reminds us a beautiful lost world where supreme musicianship was aligned with deep soul to create the greatest art form of the 20th century. I know as a musical form jazz is deeply polarizing but the work of Lee Morgan swings. There is nothing ‘hard to get’ or understand, just beautiful emotive playing.
The film centers around Morgan’s relationship with his wife, a woman from a southern farming background who came to New York and made her own way at a time when prejudice was still at its height. She rescues a heroin addicted Morgan, who had pawned his shoes and winter coat to feed his habit and helps turn his life around. Her love for him was then turned on its head when he begins to see another woman. Which ends (spoiler alert) with her going to an East Village jazz club on a snowy night in 1972 and shooting him. The film does not judge her for her actions and if anything it is hugely sympathetic to her moment of madness. In fact that is one of the most touching parts of the film, as all his friends and fellow jazz men forgive in a way that does them credit and explains the human understanding that is at the heart of all great music.