New Film Explores The Death of Lee Morgan

Mar 24, 2017

Lee and Helen Morgan

By the time trumpeter Lee Morgan was eighteen years old, he was a fully established talent on the jazz scene.  Touring with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band until they disbanded in 1958.  It didn’t take long for Lee Morgan to find more work, joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

“I had never heard anybody play trumpet like that before,” said Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collin about Lee Morgan in an interview with WBGO.

Collin previously made a film about saxophonist Albert Ayler, explaining it was a taxing project that took many years to finish.

“I thought that I would probably not make that kind of journey again and devote a lot of time to a project about this era and about jazz music in the 60’s and early 70’s.

But there was something special about Lee Morgan.

“I think it’s seven years ago now, I was watching YOUTUBE.  And suddenly I found this amazing clip with Lee Morgan playing with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.  They were playing Bobby Timmons famous composition ‘Dat Dere’.  It was a clip from Japan, Tokyo 1961.  It was Lee Morgan soling there.”

Collin says he only knew a few well known facts about Lee Morgan at that time.  He was a young trumpet virtuoso who was shot and killed by a woman.  Collin began to contact Lee’s closest living colleagues and friends to embark on a new project, the film “I Called Him Morgan.”

“Many of them started to talk about the last four years of Lee’s life, that he had spent with a woman named Helen.  They were talking about her very lovingly and passionately and how much she loved Lee, and how good their relationship was and I realized, that was the same woman that killed him.”

Kasper Collin’s film ‘I Called Him Morgan’ is a documentary fueled by the music of a great jazz talent.

“This film builds on memories, from different kinds of memories from the people who were there.  This evening when Lee was killed, they didn’t just lose Lee, they also lost Helen.  They lost two good friends at once.”

Some might even say it’s a real life Frankie and Johnny love story.

“For me this film is kind of a love letter to both Lee and Helen, and this fantastic music that brought them together.”

Kasper Collin’s film ‘I Called Him Morgan’ is now playing in select theaters.