12/17/07

Alto Saxophonist Frank Morgan Dead at 73

Alto saxophonist Frank Morgan died of kidney failure in Minneapolis on Dec. 14th. Morgan, who was 73, had recently returned from a European tour. He had suffered a stroke in 1996 and had recently been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. Earlier in his life, Morgan was addicted to heroin and spent considerable time in prison—he was away from the music business for 30 years.

The son of Stanley Morgan, a guitarist in the Ink Spots singing group, Frank Morgan was born in Minneapolis but moved to Minneapolis during his childhood. There he first studied guitar but the sound of Charlie Parker convinced him to switch to saxophone at the age of 7. In 1947, Morgan’s family moved to Los Angeles, where he began playing in bop bands in the 1950s. Morgan recorded during those early years with Freddy Martin, Teddy Charles and Kenny Clarke, and cut his first album as a leader for GNP Crescendo in 1955. It would also be his last album until 1985, when he began cutting a series of albums for Contemporary, Antilles, Telarc and High Note. He returned to Minneapolis in 2005.

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