The remarkable thing about saxist Frank Morgan is not so much his resiliency–a heroin addict for much of his adult life, he’s spent 30 years in and out of the slammer; the remarkable thing is his sensitivity. Morgan, whose return to public performance and recording has received more press than any recent event in jazz, has had a hard life, and one could expect his music to reflect that. Instead, even his toughest bebop lines have an extra dimension of sentiment and wisdom; speeding along through the landscape painted by Charlie Parker, Morgan seems to indeed be smelling the flowers along the way, even if he doesn’t actually stop to do so. I can’t think of an altoist who covers the authentic bop turf with more truth and fidelity than Morgan, but he’s no museum piece, and in fact, I find him at his most committed and powerful on more modern compositions (for example, when he plays Lee Morgan’s “Ceora” or Wayne Shorter’s “Ana Maria”). Morgan’s intonation wavers from tune to tune, and if you think he sounds off-key here or there, it’s probably not your hearing. But mostly, the serene energy of his playing–and, by extension, his doused but not extinguished life force–sweeps such objections into the corner. Tonight through Sunday and Tuesday through next Sunday, May 29, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4300.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Lindner.