Saxophonist Frank Morgan will be remembered in words and music on the 74th anniversary of his birth.
Frank Morgan, the legendary alto saxophonist who died at age 73 of complications from colon cancer at his Minneapolis home on December 14, will be remembered at a memorial service on Sunday, December 23, at the Artists' Quarter jazz club in St. Paul. Frank Morgan was born in Minneapolis and returned there in 2005 to live with his cousin Melanie Taylor and her husband Lance Taylor, who are planning the memorial service. The event will include brief remembrances from Frank's family members and Twin Cities jazz community members, followed by the music of tenor saxophonist Irv Williams and other Twin Cities jazz musicians. December 23 would have been Frank Morgan's 74th birthday. The December 23, 2007, memorial service is from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Artists' Quarter, 7th Place and St. Peter Street, Downtown St. Paul, (651) 292-1359.
Frank Morgan performed with 88 year-old Minnesota saxophone icon Irv Williams in July of this year at the Dakota Jazz Club as part of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. The two were joined by special guest Grace Kelly, a 15 year-old saxophone prodigy who Morgan had been mentoring. Morgan, who often expressed his affection for the Artists' Quarter jazz club, last performed there in a duo performance with pianist George Cables.
Saxophonist Frank Morgan was born in Minneapolis in 1933. His father Stanley was a guitarist with The Ink Spots. The family first moved to Milwaukee when Frank was age 6, followed by a move to Los Angeles in 1947. It wasn't long before Morgan was impressing the jazz cognoscenti with his inspired improvisations and clear tone, drawing comparisons to his alto hero, Charlie Parker. In the early- and mid-1950s he recorded with Kenny Clarke, Teddy Charles and others, and led his own date on the GNP label. What followed was a thirty year absence from recording, a troubled period of addiction and prison time. In one of the greatest comeback stories in jazz, Morgan cleaned up and returned to recording in 1985 and had been going strong ever since. His alto sound reflected his love for Charlie Parker's music, but with the unmistakable Frank Morgan touch. A three-night stand of shows at New York's Jazz Standard have been released as three CDs on the HighNote Records label, showcasing a master in peak form. A 2006 release on HighNote, Reflections, was recorded at the storied Rudy Van Gelder Studio by Van Gelder himself, and is another excellent entry in Morgan's catalog. Shortly before his death, Frank Morgan had completed his first tour of Europe. There is no doubt that each show included Frank Morgan's signature line, It's great to be alive." Frank Morgan will be dearly missed by family, friends and the jazz world.
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