Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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MORGAN, Frank

(b 23 December 1933, Minneapolis MN; d there 14 December 2008 of kidney failure) Alto, soprano saxophones. He learned clarinet from age seven, saxophone from ten, moved to Los Angeles in 1947. Joined Lionel Hampton '52, recorded with Teddy Charles '53, Kenny Clarke '54, made own album '55, but his first arrest prevented him from joining the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet. Imprisoned for drug offences, he had all the heroin he wanted and played with the prison band, often with better rhythm sections than on the outside. But finally, he told Francis Davis, 'The prison population has changed, or maybe I've changed ... I don't want to be around those motherfuckers. I'm not like them.'

Many people thought he was dead, but he was re-established in the mid-1980s with albums for Contemporary: Easy Living followed by Bebop Lives! (live at the Village Vanguard late '86), Major Changes '87, Yardbird Suite and Reflections '88, all with various first-class sidemen; also as co-leader with Bud Shank on Quiet Fire '87 and with pianist George Cables on Double Image '88, Cables playing on both. He appeared in play Prison-Made Tuxedos in an NYC church '87. He switched to Antilles for albums Mood Indigo '89, A Lovesome Thing '91, You Must Believe In Spring '92 (duets with pianists Kenny Barron, Tommy Flanagan, Roland Hanna and Hank Jones) and Listen To The Dawn '93 with Kenny Burrell; Bop! '96 on Telarc included Rodney Kendrick's trio. The passionate, Charlie Parker-derived delivery featured on Fresh Sound's Gene Norman Presents Frank Morgan '55 was still in evidence; his approach is now more reflective, but despite the hard-times stories he was being appreciated for the right reasons.