Lee Morgan: His Life, Music and Culture

Equinox, 2006. Italian translation: Odoya, 2009.

This is the first biography of the jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan (1938-72). He was a prodigy: recruited to Dizzy Gillespie’s big band while still a teenager, joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers not much after, by his early-20s Morgan had played on four continents and dozens of albums. The trumpeter would go on to cultivate a personal and highly influential style, and to make records – most notably The Sidewinder – which would sell amounts almost unheard of in jazz. While what should have been Morgan’s most successful years were hampered by a heroin addiction, the ascendant black liberation movement of the late-60s gave the musician a new, political impulse, and he returned to the jazz scene to become a vociferous campaigner for black musicians’ rights and representation. But Morgan’s personal life remained troubled, and during a fight with his girlfriend at a New York club, he was shot and killed, aged 33. The events of Morgan’s life are presented here not just as items of biography, but also as points of departure for wider historical investigations that aim to situate the musician and his contemporaries in changing aesthetic, social and economic contexts. This book draws on many original interviews with Morgan’s colleagues and friends, as well as extensive archival research and critical engagement with the music itself.

Through a wealth of research and incisive anecdote from his band members and close associates, Morgan emerges as an intriguing, multi-layered figure. Kevin Le Gendre, The Independent on Sunday

The whole trajectory [of Morgan's life] ... is handled with impressive confidence. It's clichéd praise, but my first act on finishing the book was to dig out a slew of old Blue Notes. Brian Morton, The Wire

An outstanding achievement… [Perchard] shows himself to be a close listener and a tough-minded critic who can write vividly about the music. Ed Hazell, Signal to Noise

Excellent … [Perchard is] especially good on Morgan's music, analytical but not so technical as to lose most readers. Will Friedwald, The New York Sun

This is a remarkable book and an outstanding contribution to jazz literature. Graham Colombé, Jazz Journal International

First-rate jazz scholarship. Andrew Scott, Coda

Perchard doesn’t focus on the sensational parts of Morgan’s life but skilfully dissects his music, and gives it a fitting social context. Fred Dellar, Mojo

Perchard navigates between Morgan’s music, its political and social context, its implications for the development of jazz and the minutiae of its creation and points of reference with natural expertise … Dust off and play your copy of The Sidewinder, then enjoy this book. Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine

… an extraordinary achievement … remarkable. Subtitled ‘His Life, Music and Culture’, it is exactly that, not just life and music as most biographies are, but a substantial jazz history too and as such can be highly recommended. Chris Yates, The Jazz Rag