Frank Morgan Talking Jazz
Alto saxophonist Frank Morgan still answers his telephone "Bebop Lives!" It would be equally appropriate to celebrate the fact that "Frank Morgan lives", because his life's story is a classic encapsulation of the bebop movement, with all the humanity and tragedy that that music has to offer. (In fact, an off-Broadway play, called "Prison-Made Tuxedos", built on Frank's life, was produced in 1987.) Frank became addicted to heroin by age 17, because he thought this would please his friend and hero, Charlie Parker. In his own words, "I tried to be a better junkie than Charlie Parker." His musical star was rising fast in the mid ‘50’s when drug related offenses caused him to spend the first of what was ultimately to become over 25 years in prison. Upon emerging in 1985, he made a record for the Fantasy label and again, like a wild flower in some deserted field, his career suddenly blossomed. And even though he returned to prison one more time after that, it was to be the end of his long battle with heroin. Released later that year, Frank Morgan found his musical and spiritual feet. Due in part to the revival in the interest in Parker's music and also to the more general reinterpretation of bebop as a "neo-classical" form, Frank has accomplished his long march back to health, proudly carrying the flag of bebop. From the opening notes of the following conversation, it was clear that, like a Frank Morgan ballad, it came straight from the heart.