Black History Month: Lee Morgan

Update: since this post was first written in 2012, a highly praised Lee Morgan documentary has been released.

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While the perpetually stylish trumpet player Lee Morgan was a consummate musician, bandleader and composer, he was nothing if not a prodigious swordsman.

It was, in fact, this libidinous inclination that brought about his premature demise at the messianic age of 33, as Morgan was shot dead by his scorned common-law wife while at a gig.

But who could blame the woman? Lee Morgan was the most stylish trumpet player after Miles Davis, and gained wide recognition during the Ivy heyday of the late ’50s and early ’60s. He’s seen above in a photo by Francis Wolff wearing rep tie and university-stripe buttondown.

With Morgan every detail was considered, and the same goes for his music as demonstrated by his hit record “Sidewinder.” a great introduction to this giant of jazz.

And here he is performing in 1961 with the Oscar Peterson Trio. — JASON MARSHALL


28 Comments on "Black History Month: Lee Morgan"

  1. No need to create/perpetuate the stereotype of Black jazz musicians as the only Black men to follow Ivy style. There were (still are?) plenty of Black college professors who were followers of orthodox Ivy style.

  2. Congrats to Mr. Marshall for a succinct, witty, informative piece. The great style of jazz artists has always been of interest to me, and this is a sterling example. Thank you.

    G. Bruce Boyer

  3. Honest Abe – does showing photos of Steve McQueen in ivy outfit create/perpetuate the stereotype of white actors as the only white men to follow ivy style?

    I’m all for exposing racist stereotypes, but I can’t see that here. Why don’t you collect some photos and/or write about ivy wearers who were black but not jazz musicians, then ask Chris Chens to post.

    Nice photo btw, I love a uni stripe.

  4. Yuca

    I can clearly see Honest Abe’s point. But before I get to that, as a person “all for exposing racist stereotypes” then you should know that your Steve McQueen comment was unfair, apologist, and condescending. Throughout the blog there are many examples of white Hollywood actors exhibiting the “Ivy style” so how does your McQueen comment even apply? Add to that, there are simply more white people featured here than any other group of people (not that that’s always a problem), so the idea that a group that rarely shows up here could possibly be subject to stereotyping isn’t that far off. And then we have the fact that the only men here in celebration of Black History Month are jazz musicians and one jazz age artist (most of the black men featured here at all fall into that category). Maybe Honest Abe’s point is hard for you to see, but it might help if you look.

    At any rate, thank you, Christian, for featuring these men. They are very stylish. Looking forward to seeing more.

  5. You seem to be saying that H Abe is correct to criticise this forum for creating/perpetuating ‘the stereotype of Black jazz musicians as the only Black men to follow Ivy style’, yet you’re thanking Chens for featuring ‘these men’ and ‘you’re looking forward to seeing more’. An obvious contradiction in your thinking.

    I think I understand Abe’s original point: photos from the past show black ivy wearers, some of whom were famous i.e. jazz musicians and tv/film actors, others of whom were not famous. The latter group have not been documented on the site, and this implies the only black ivy wearers were jazz musicians.

    If we take the above as a legitimate criticism of this site/Chens, surely it’s the lack of photos of non-famous black ivy wearers that is the fault, not the posting of photos of jazz musicians? Therefore my defence of the posting of this wonderful photo is not ‘unfair, apologist, and condescending’, and I resent the fact that you have stated otherwise. I’m all for combatting racism, and discussing this emotive subject, but that doesn’t give you the right to make unfounded accusations just because you disagree with my opinions. (Although the contradiction in your post suggests you also agree with my opinions i.e. you support the posting of this photo.)

    I suggest you make a positive contribution to the fight against racism, instead of attacking me for supporting the posting of a quality photo. Particularly as you too support the posting of the photo.

  6. Dickey Greenleaf | February 25, 2012 at 8:35 am | Reply

    I was sure after looking at this youtube moment that, the comments would surely suggest, that all the comments would be something about good taste in clothing, or good taste in music? What the hell are you guys aguring about? This is not a court room, and you two gentleman are not lawyers, please!, let’s just foucus on what this forum is truely about, and not, what it’s not, about!, foolishness, unclassmanship, and apologistism?, Black History month is what February is all about in America, furthermore, I like Lee Morgan’s horn play, it’s very good, it kinda reminds me of Horace Silver and one of his famous trumpeters, Woody Shaw, great stuff,

  7. DG,

    For most Americans, February is more about cold weather, “President’s Day” (i.e., George Washington’s Birthday and the associated sales & day off), and basketball/hockey than it is about black history.

    However, your basic point–the exchange between those above is ridiculous–is spot-on.

  8. Maybe that’s the point of it, Henry.

  9. Haven’t we grown up sufficiently to stop pretending that Black history is of interest to the majority of Americans?

  10. @ Sandman

    The “majority of Americans” of which you speak is rapidly becoming the “minority of Americans”. Good or bad? I don’t know.

  11. @Sandman

    You obviously haven’t grown up enough to realize that not everyone is exactly like you. Nor do they wish to be.

  12. Ivy is not of interest to the majority of Americans – should we abolish this site?

  13. @Yuca:

    I must have been half-asleep when I penned that. I meant to say “the majority of Ivy afficionados” rather than “the majority of Americans”. Like most Ivy/Trad affcionados, I couldn’t care less about what the majority of Americans think.

  14. So only articles that are of interest to the majority of ivy/trad afficionados should be published?

    And how do we ascertain which subjects are of interest to the majority of ivy/trad afficionados? An online poll has the possibility of votes from those whose ivy fanatacism is questionable. Perhaps photos of each prospective voter’s wardrobe contents could be examined by experienced ivy afficionados.

  15. I think CC is very astute with his Black History Month postings.

    One the one hand, he shows the influence of Ivy style outside of its original base; on the other, he gets the opportunity to showcase a distinct American musical style.

    And, to top it all off, he gains legitimate non-“racist” credibility: if anyone hurls that epithet at him, all he needs to do is point out his tradition of BHM postings.

    Which is not, repeat, NOT to call him calculating. I believe that he has found a way to expand the ground that can be covered, which is good, and that it has several side benefits, which is also good.

    And to CC: I was responding to DG’s line that “Black History month is what February is all about in America.” I disagree; for most people, I think February is much more about winter weather, winter sports, and winter sales.

  16. I watched the documentary yesterday after it came up as a recommendation on Netflix, I had watched Chasing Trane and then up popped I Called Him Morgan, so I felt obliged to get my subscriptions worth.

    I have to say I think I prefered the doc on Morgan. It’s pretty haunting hearing his wife nearing death being interviewed as Lee’s life plays out, especially considering the ultimate outcome. The music is perfect and makes me consider (among many others, granted) Morgan as having some of the most memorable recordings of that period.

    The clothes are touched on, but what was a rather classy wardrobe of Ivy league classics by the late sixties we see the Dashikis broken out, yet he still appears to maintain that clean style. Obviously some people just have an innate style and you couldve put the guy in a paper bag and he’d still carry it off with style.

  17. Wow, Stanley Turrentine and now Lee Morgan – both reposts of articles published 6 years ago? Don’t go overboard with your Black History Month coverage! You could at least pretend you care, and publish something new on Sidney Poitier or Harry Belafonte, at the very least. But I suppose it’s safer for you to (re)publish articles on African Americans who stayed nicely within the lines as entertainers, not messy political figures.

  18. @Just Sayin
    Poitier and Belafonte were too high up on the cultural scale and don’t fit in with the jazz/football thing which we’re supposed to believe is part of Ivy style.

  19. @Just Sayiin

    What I don’t understand is why the color of skin is so important. Oh wait, yes I do.

    Would MLK have approved of Black History Month? I think not.

    Will

  20. @Just Sayin

    Not all of us had the good taste to be reading Ivy Style in 2012. I’m happy to have discovered Lee today through the resurrection of this post, and look forward to hearing his trumpet as the rain clouds looming outside my window open up.

  21. @Blue Pinpoint Interesting comment. Harry Belafonte was a musician, like Morgan and Turrentine, and Sidney Poitier was an actor – like Steve McQueen, Tab Hunter, or (for a recent example) Peter Lawford, who are all celebrated for their wearing of Ivy style. If the question is who fits in with 1950s/1960s Ivy League collegiate style, then Morgan and Turrentine are already pushing it – it would probably have been Stan Getz, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, or Oscar Peterson. Not the kind of gritty, bluesy hard bop played by Morgan, Turrentine, and other Blue Note artists of the time.

    @Sacksuit It has its problems, for sure. But it’s also true that black Americans are still relegated to a “minority” space in American culture, rather than an equal one, so I think BHM serves at least the purpose of educating and celebrating black life – the problem, of course, is that it’s largely ignored for the rest of the year (it certainly is here on Ivy Style! MLK on MLK Day and a couple jazz musicians for Black History Month… in between it’s all Kennedy and Yale). Whether or not MLK would have approved of BHM is slightly beside the point – the month wasn’t created to honor him specifically, nor is he the sole definer of Civil Rights and equality in America. It has its issues, but saying MLK wouldn’t have approved of it seems like a cheap way to push aside real discussion.

    @Eric Twardzik And that’s awesome! By all means, talk about these guys too. But it just seems like if CC is going to publish BHM posts at all, do it right. Republishing a couple 6-year-old posts seems lazy, checking off a box because it’s expected rather than really diving into the topic. And to only highlight musicians, and decidedly non-political ones at that, plays into a safe idea of black Americans as entertainers and nothing more. From the Freedom Riders to more politically motivated artists, there are many examples of Ivy style in the Civil Rights movement – and of course many in American black life in general, which is what BHM is supposed to celebrate. Ivy Style has established itself as the conservative voice of Ivy, which is totally okay – this is the internet, it can be whatever it wants to be. So if CC doesn’t want to cover BHM, he just shouldn’t do it. But to pretend like he really cares, while putting out such a minimal effort, seems hypocritical.

    All I’m saying is, there’s more to black Ivy than a couple of jazz musicians, and it’d be cool if Ivy Sty;e could find the time to highlight them rather than choosing the easiest way to look like it’s participating in something that the majority of posts and comment threads here contradict.

  22. @Just Sayin

    There are certain people who, if given the chance, will always take the most negative interpretation possible.

    I’m over the flu now, and there is plenty of fresh content coming.

    We’ve featured Belafonte and Poitier previously. Plus artist Jacob Lawrence, Polo’s African American models, and regular-joe members of the readership. Perhaps you missed them? That’s why we regularly repost from the archives.

    You could give me credit for being the only preppy blogger to post each year on Black History Month, but that would require something other than the worst possible interpretation.

  23. “You could give me credit for being the only preppy blogger to post each year on Black History Month, but that would require something other than the worst possible interpretation.”

    The Jacob Lawrence piece, like these jazz pieces, was originally posted in the past – in 2011. The Polo post, and ones on Coltrane and others, were published a year or two years, for last year’s Black History Month, as were the posts on Belafonte and Poitier. I didn’t miss them, but it can be hard to remember them when they only show up in one designated month of the year.

    I mean, how many preppy bloggers even are there? You might be the only preppy blogger to post each year on BHM, but you don’t spend much time outside of this one month talking about black Ivy style. And I don’t really count recycling the same old posts each year. I’m not trying to write you off, but to point out a way you can improve. It’s no good to have an unjustified negative interpretation of others, but it’s equally bad to have an unjustified positive interpretation of yourself. You could be doing a lot better. And obviously from your response to me you know that blackness is underrepresented in this corner of the internet. So why not spend a little more time doing more to cover it here?

    (And I’m not even getting into the comment sections.)

  24. “it’s equally bad to have an unjustified positive interpretation of yourself.”

    Indeed.

  25. I’m not trying to be a troll here, but to raise something important. I understand if you don’t agree, or don’t want to hear it, or can’t hear it right now. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. But the least you could do is try to actually listen and understand what I’m trying to bring up, even if you disagree with me or the way I’m doing it.

    Have a great day.

  26. Dear Abe, what is your favourite Lee Morgan record? I would recommend Search for the New Land from 1966.

  27. Henry Contestwinner | February 13, 2018 at 11:38 am | Reply

    JS wrote, “… black Americans are still relegated to a “minority” space in American culture, rather than an equal one…”

    Not “minority,” but minority, simpliciter, but hardly on the sidelines.

    “…blackness is underrepresented in this corner of the internet.”

    Go back to the beginning and read through the posts. You’ll see plenty of blacks featured. However, if it’s an exposition on “what it means to be black” you’re looking for, you won’t find it here—but why would anyone expect to?

  28. Martin – lots of the JM albums that Lee Morgan played on were great.

    I think ‘hip’ London interpreters of Ivy put a lot of store by the ‘cool’ of black jazz musicians in the late 50s. Modernists swore by it and the clothes and design seen on Blue Note album covers. Can’t see that as negative or limiting at all.

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