I Called Him Morgan


Documentary / Drama / History / Music

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 96%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 81%
IMDb Rating 7.2 10 773


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by kozure-okami-744-789585 10 / 10

The Best Documentary about "Black Classical Music" and a Long-Ago New York City

If you love and understand real jazz--and especially if you love the long-ago New York City that gave birth to bebop and hard bop--there is nothing out there like this film. It is also fitting that a non-American made it, given that the United States has so turned its back on its greatest artistic creation and the musicians who created it. (Just compare this film with the shameful recent American documentary about Trane--with its pandering casting of Denzel Washington as narrator and utterly stupid and irrelevant choices of people to interview (Bill Clinton? Carlos Santana? Common? Cornell West? John Densmore?). From the late-night Larry Thomas jazz radio program and New York City snowfall and that opens I Called Him Morgan(and hey, whatever happened to that snow? It seems to have disappeared along with the jazz scene),the interviews with jazz musicians of Lee Morgan's time (one of whom who objects to the term "jazz," aptly preferring "black classical music"), and with it's beautifully paced rendering of acompelling American story of love and pain...for someone like me, who lived through all of that, it just could not have been better.

Reviewed by Homelessexual 9 / 10

This is not the ultimate Lee Morgan biography. But it is a very good film that tells a complete story

As a long time fan of Lee Morgan, I went into this mentally prepared for a big letdown. I had wanted to get a clearer and more complete picture of his life before dying at the young age of 33. I wanted to know more about his previous wife, a Japanese American woman for whom he wrote songs and from whom he split amicably.

In the end though, what the director did was focus on the events that led to the shooting death of Mr. Morgan on a snowy night in New York City and at the hands of his on-again/off-again lover or common-law wife, depending on what perspective one takes. And as a result the film was tighter and more linear than it would have been otherwise.

Even if I hadn't been a fan of the music and of Lee Morgan in particular, I would have walked away from the movie impressed with the directorial skill (which includes interviews and editing) on display, but the fact that we manage to get so many great people on film, including Wayne Shorter, who is 83 years old, really sealed the deal for me.

As of this writing, there is only one other review up, and while I disagree with 97% of it, I agree that this ALSO could have been a very effective PBS radio broadcast or a podcast. But that does not give sufficient credit to this director who shot the material and people (and included the music and rare footage) with such a careful and appreciative eye as well as excellent cinematography.

This is the best jazz documentary I've ever seen and even if it focused on the woman who killed the star (that she previously nurtured back from addiction) it is very much worth seeing (and hearing). I highly recommend it if you have a chance to see it while it is in limited release.

Seen at Lincoln Performing Arts Center, NYC March 2017

Reviewed by funsterdad 9 / 10

A great documentary of a jazz great

I love the music and musical performance of Lee Morgan. At the ripe not quite so mature age of 22, I couldn't take pop music's takeover by disco, and after some searching, I discovered a love of jazz music.

One jazz label, in particular, that I latched onto was Blue Note, and that's where I encountered one Lee Morgan. From the first moment I heard him on vinyl I fell in love with his sound; Morgan could play effortlessly in a mellow sort of way, and yet I feel a sense of urgency in what I hear. (I read a review once in which it was suggested that when Lee Morgan played a solo, he played it as if it might be his last, and he wanted to leave us with a statement.)

Delving into Lee Morgan's history, I knew that his life had come to a tragic end when he was just 33 years old. I felt, however, I was lacking in details as to what led to his death.

In 2016, Swedish film writer/director Kasper Collin released "I Called Him Morgan," a beautiful and poignant portrayal of Lee Morgan's professional life that started as a sideman at age 18 to the great Dizzy Gillespie.

Morgan had a tremendous struggle with heroin that could have ruined not just his musical career but his personal future. An older woman who would eventually become Morgan's common-law wife, Helen Moore, entered Morgan's life and became all that he would need to get him back on his feet.This film pays great tribute to Moore's love for Morgan and her place in the more personal side of the New York jazz scene during the peak of Morgan's career. A falling out over Morgan's switching his attention to another woman would lead to his tragic end, however, and seriously effect the jazz community and Helen Moore's life.

The jazz enthusiast in me would perhaps beg for more musical performance, but I believe Collin gave us just enough that a young person with musical interests might explore Morgan's music and/or the genre known as jazz. What brings this documentary to life are the excerpts from a recorded interview with Morgan's wife Helen, filmed interviews with former band mates, and vivid black and white stills taken during both performances and leisure time. The band mates, in particular Wayne Shorter, express great affection for Lee Morgan. It's easy to sense the hurt that was felt when they lost Morgan at such an early age.

Jazz fans especially and film fans especially should be pleased with this documentary release. If you are found to be neither, I believe you will find "I Called Him Morgan" a fascinating film.

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