“It’s All Music” – Lee Morgan celebrates the life, art and Lee Morgan’s Slug’s Saloon

Opening night at Slug’s

9 Avenue B, NY 10009

By Hannah Reimann

GREG LEWIS ON SAX, Alphonso Horne on trumpet and Marty Jane on bass at Slug’s playing music by Lee Morgan. Photo credit: Hannah Reimann.

Jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan (1938-1972) left a gripping legacy after his truncated 33-year life. A virtuoso composer and performer with his own elaborate melodic style, his tragic demise due to a gunshot by his common-law wife, Helen Moore aka Helen Morgan, occurred after she brought him Morgan’s gun to help him deal with a drug dealer that he was dissatisfied with. According to this, other traditions shared in person on stage and via zoom recordings projected on the wall of the new Slug jazz club, there was another woman involved that night, someone Morgan also loved, leading to a crime of the heart by Helen. Eyewitnesses gave their accounts and there was a moment of silence by all present.

A brilliant show opening the new jazz club commemorated Morgan’s death exactly 50 years ago on February 19, which took place at a seedy jazz club, also called Slug’s. The old venue was located at the corner of 9 Avenue B at 243 East Third Street. Slug’s 2022 was packed and the wine was flowing. Unique cafe tables borrowed from Robin Hirsch’s fiery Cornelia Street Cafè that Hirsch had in store offered an appealing conviviality. There was a new sense of excitement and camaraderie in the venue due to the huge group effort to open a venue in the midst of our pandemic times.

The musicians were the most important for the evening’s festivities. Alphonso Horne on trumpet, Greg Lewis on saxophone, Mathis Picard on piano, Marty Jane on bass and Darrian Douglas on drums showcased the incredible talent and musicality of Morgan and his colleagues. Their complex solos and improvisations captured the era and the talent of the musicians who clearly left a positive influence, a technical challenge and an opportunity for mastery for these young players. Their love and dedication was evident in every sentence of their execution and expression. For someone who died so suddenly and brutally, the music was contrastingly joyful, full of humor and imagination.

This unusual bright spot at a time when many concert halls are eager to open and hire artists as they did before the pandemic was a most uplifting evening of laughter, applause and success. A couple got up and danced down the aisles. Owner Allan Buchman of the Culture Project created the new Slug’s in association with Blueprint for Accountability, 9B9, his colleague Juan Puntes of Whitebox Gallery and 2B&2C. They produced an unforgettable event that celebrated one of jazz’s shining stars, Lee Morgan, with great dignity and respect. Less known than his contemporaries, Art Blakey and Dizzie Gillespie, with whom he performed, it is concerts like this that can mark a revival of Morgan and contribute to the dissemination of his music.

Everyone wore masks (removing them to sip wine) and checked for vaccinations. There were speeches from the people who opened the room and from special guest Jean Victor Nkolo, of Cameroonian origin, spokesperson for the presidency of the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Nkolo spoke with gratitude about the legacy of great black musicians and their connection to Africa. Buchman and Nkola joined forces in 2009 to create two major concerts in the United Nations General Assembly Hall: one commemorating the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the other honoring United Nations peacekeepers. on United Nations Day. These interesting details about the presenters made the evening even more meaningful.

Hannah Reimann is a professional musician, author and educator who has made films as an actress and director. She has concertized her multi-genre shows as a pianist, singer and songwriter internationally, including an Off-Broadway series of Both Sides Now: The Music of Joni Mitchell. She will release an EP of original songs in 2022. Creator of the International Stretto Piano Festival in 2021.