I Called Him Morgan
Director: Kaspar Collin
Cast: Wayne Shorter, Larry Reni Thomas, Judith Johnson, Jymie Merritt, Albert Tootie Heath, Larry Ridley
Year of release: 2017
Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes
Utilizing stock footage, still photographs, talking head interviews, and evocative audio recordings, Kaspar Collin's I Called Him Morgan is the rare music documentary which actually seems intoxicated by the power of it's period New York City setting as well as the hypnotic sounds emanating from every corner of the room.
Collin dramatizes the rise and tragic fall of renown jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan in intimate fashion; showing us how, in his teenage days, the kid played on John Coltrane's Blue Train and later, even gave Dizzy Gillespie a run for his money during live performances. Through striking black-and-white still photos and rare archival footage, we are able to see Lee fully in his element; sweating, smiling, and flying through complex solos while wearing dapper suits. His contributions to the famous Blue Note record label, particularly his work with Art Blakey and the Messengers is highlighted, as is his crippling heroin addiction. However, the real crux of the film, and its inevitable framing device, is an audio recorded interview with Lee's wife, Helen, who notoriously shot and killed her husband at Slugs nightclub in 1972.
Helen's raw voice is often layered over the imagery to haunting effect, and it's a testament to Collin that he never casts her as a villain, but as something closer to a tragic figure. As the image of snowflakes falling slowly set to the sounds of Lee's gorgeous music reoccurs, I Called Him Morgan emerges with the idea that genius, addiction, jealousy, and love are often all intrinsically linked; riding on the wave of a hard bop solo.