The Most Famous Murder in Jazz

6 May

lee-morganJazz, like almost any other art form, is not without its off-stage drama. As a (below average) trumpet player, I am sensitive to the fact that there have been too many trumpeters before me who passed away far too early for a variety of far too unfortunate reasons. The list includes Clifford Brown, Bunny Berigan (see my remembrance of Berigan here) and of course, Lee Morgan.

I certainly don’t take murder or the loss of life lightly. And the murder of trumpeter Lee Morgan at the young age of 33 was a huge tragedy, as the jazz world had only been given a taste of what would no doubt be a legendary career. But there is always a story behind a story, and that is what we take a look at today.

There have been a number of different stories and accounts as to how Lee Morgan’s death took place, and for what reasons. I came across a very interesting interview with drummer Billy Hart, that I have linked for you to listen to here. Be advised – the interview contains explicit language that could be found offensive.

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9 Responses to “The Most Famous Murder in Jazz”

  1. riskrapper May 8, 2009 at 7:45 am #

    great story

    thanks for putting it out

    we occasionally post on jazz and link to jazz youtube videos on our Risk Rap site on word press.

    cheers

    riskrapper

  2. Blu Hulk May 25, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    I am also a trumpet player, and I actually wrote a paper in college about how a disproportionate number of jazz trumpeters seem to die young in especially tragic ways. Interesting topic.

    Great post! Keep up the good work!

  3. manny June 15, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    pfft, everyone knows drumming is far more risky. just watch spinal tap. one drummer actually spontaneously combusted. the other died in a freak gardening accident 😛

  4. dale t. hayes October 15, 2009 at 9:09 pm #

    I don’t think that billy hart should have talked about morgan’s cleanlyness, and how other’s jazz player’s kicked lee out of there home’s. I’m very sure that hart would not like that coming t him. Lee Morgan was and norcotice user, like alot of player’s of that time.Miles Davis so what, he slapted on a pool table.Lee morgan had issues, Hart don’t dig the dirt, dig the trumpet player.I had to ask someone what do you play?.Play your drum’s Billy hart,and be reconnized.

  5. dale t. hayes November 4, 2009 at 9:28 pm #

    I left a reply and bam, it disapered.Hear go’s agin. LEE MORGAN, One of the soulfulist trumpet player’that picked up a horn. The dude was cool as cool. I had the plesure of seeing the man play at”THE BOTH AND CLUB” in san francisco. As i walked into the club, i says LEE MORGAN. AND WITH HIS JAZZY VOICE HE IN TURN SAYS” WHAT’S HAPPINING MAN” AND WE SLAP’ED HAND’S.THE FIRST GROOVE WAS “SPEEDBALL” AND THEY SMOKED THE CLUB UP, PUT IT ON FIRE.LISEN TO LEE’S MUSIC, YOU’LL LOVE IT TO, HE LEFT ALOT. DALE TYRONE

  6. dale t. hayes November 12, 2009 at 5:18 pm #

    WE ARE DEEPLY BLESSED TO HAD LEE MORGAN PICK UP THE TRUMPET, AND BLEW HIS HEART INTO THAT HORN. LEE PLAYED BROWN,MILES AND DIZZY, THAN HE FLEW THE COUPE SORING IN THE SKY FROM HIS TEACHERS. BECOMING LEE MORGAN, THE COOL AS HELL TRUMPET PLAYER. MOST OF HIS FANS, WILL ALWAYS LOVE LEE FOR THE MUSIC THAT HE LEFT US, AND THE STYLE OF HIM, LEE SOULFUL,BALLADEER AND STORY TELLINGS, LIKE (I REMMBER CLIFFORD) AND (YOU GO TO MY HEAD.HE’S UP IN THE SKY WITH BROWN AND MILES,PLAYIN WHAT WE JAZZ. DALE TYRONE HAYES

  7. Gwen June 8, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    I had always wondered how one of the most brilliant jazz trumpet players died. Every time I hear his music I ask WHY??? Why was this amazing musician taken from us! I live in Texas, so I never had the pleasure of seeing him perform in person. Are there any videos available of him playing? He will always, always be my favorite trumpeter! Thank you SO MUCH for posting that interview with Billy Hart. I understand there is a book entitled “Delightful Lee.” Has anybody read it? Where can I find it? Thanks again!!!

  8. Edmann April 24, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    I use to live on the east coast. Born in the Queens, raised in Jersey. I was 22 and really into jazz the year Lee Morgan was shot. Call myself wanting to play bass, upright. But I hadn’t heard of Lee up to that point and was in the city to see Larry Coryell. Coryell was on Duchman and I liked his sound. If I’m not mistaken Slugs may have been closed cause of Lee murder for a short while. The way I understood it Lee Morgan gig a lot at Slugs and they just closed for a while cause of police investigation/grief. I did see Coryell and he was good, but Lee Morgan stayed with me all these years on account of him passing right there in the club and me being in the club soon after. Yeah, its stayed with.

  9. Gwen April 25, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    I must say it again…. I LOVE anything with Lee Morgan on trumpet! Has anyone checked out his version of “You Go To My Head?” It is hauntingly beautiful. I also like his take on “Night In Tunisia” with Pepper Adams on baritone sax. TOO cool!

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