Lee Morgan has always been, since I first heard him when I was around 13, one of my absolute favorite players. We have a shared history. We’re both from Philadelphia, and we had the same trumpet teacher, the incredible Tony Marchione, who first told me about Lee and what an individual he was. Shortly thereafter I heard a great trumpet player on the jazz station in Philly, and judging from his unique sound and execution, I said to myself, “That must be him!” (I was right!) From then on I was hooked. A couple of months later, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers were playing at the Academy of Music on Broad Street and I was up in the balcony, amazed at the maturity and virtuosity of this 19-year-old trumpet master.
A few short years later when I was 19 and spending the summer of ’65 in Seattle, the Messengers came to the Penthouse for a week with Lee, Gary Bartz, John Hicks, Victor Sproles and, of course, Blakey. I hung around Lee all week after citing my Philly credentials. He heard me play at an afternoon jam session at the club and told me to stick around and sit in with the band at the matinee. I was thrilled. When the time came he motioned for me to come up and play, so I jumped on the bandstand ready to play “A Night in Tunisia.”