|The Last Post|
Alto saxophonist who returned from obscurityCopyright © 2007
Frank Morgan, the alto saxophonist who made one of the most successful comebacks in jazz history died at 73 from colon cancer.
The son of a guitarist, Morgan began his career after moving to Los Angeles at 14 with his divorced father. He won a talent contest and recorded a solo with bandleader Freddie Martin when he was 15, and quickly became a regular on the thriving Central Avenue jazz scene. He became a popular sideman for visiting beboppers like Kenny Clarke. Charlie Parker was his main influence -- both on the saxophone and in his use of heroin.
He had already served prison time by his early 20s for drug-related offences, and over the following three decades he spent more time incarcerated than as a free man. The follow-up to his 1955 debut album did not come until 1985.
That sophomore recording -- Easy Living for the Contemporary label -- won good reviews, and Morgan became a leading member of the bop revival of the '80s. He worked regularly and recorded often, for labels including Antilles and Telarc.
Morgan suffered a stroke in 1998, but returned to touring and recording, though at a reduced level.