Part musician bio-pic, part love story, and part murder mystery, Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collin’s enthralling documentary I Called Him Morgan looks at the rise, fall, resurrection, and early death of masterful jazz trumpeter and teenage prodigy Lee Morgan.
Like many greats of the genre, Morgan was discovered by an old hand (in this case, Dizzy Gilespie and Art Blakey), vetted as a genius, dabbled with a drug habit that nearly ruined his career and reputation, and found solace in the love of Helen Lee Morgan, a self-made, world-weary older woman from the south who would become his manager and common law wife. She would also be convicted of shooting Lee following a dispute on a fateful snowy night in 1972.
Collin elevates Lee Morgan’s life story beyond musical biography clichés by showing a great amount of journalistic integrity and a lack of bias. Talking with those who knew and worked with Lee and having access to Helen’s final interview before her death in 1996, it’s a haunting, tragic documentary that painfully outlines how something as life changing as a new love could have gone so subtly sour before an untimely demise.
Is I Called Him Morgan opening weekend worthy?
The music on display would alone be worth the price of admission, but Lee Morgan’s story is so much more than the music, and Collin makes a viewer’s investment worth it.
I Called Him Morgan opens Friday, April 7, 2017 at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. Check their website for more information.