Music » Critics' Choices

Frank Morgan Quintet

Saturday, March 22, at the Gem Theater.

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Hand in hand with the immeasurable legacy of Charlie Parker is the incredible sense of loss that accompanies the thought of his untimely death at age 34. The uncommon genius was -- sadly enough -- a common junkie and a victim of a self-inflicted lifestyle that all too often was mistaken as a mandatory mantle for any jazz musician. Frank Morgan (pictured) first met Parker at the tender age of seven. Parker, only nineteen at the time, encouraged Morgan's interest in the alto saxophone and would take the young man under his wing seven years later when Morgan's father moved the family to Los Angeles. Like his mentor, Morgan made an indelible mark on the scene, prompting some critics to declare him Bird's heir apparent. And like his mentor, Morgan's life also spiraled down into the deepening decay of heroin addiction; the next thirty years would be spent teetering precariously between drugs and prison. While Morgan's longevity is nothing short of astonishing, the victory over his personal demons in 1985 is simply miraculous. His just reward is the gift of a career even stronger than the one he started more than three decades ago. Fellow saxophonist and noted flutist Sonny Fortune's roots also run deep into the heart of the jazz pantheon. Coming onto the scene in 1967, Fortune went on to become a veteran of several high-profile combos, playing under the watchful eyes of Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis and cementing his reputation as a formidable sideman. Since 1975, Fortune has also been a bandleader in his own right, fronting a quartet that prominently features his own original musical compositions.

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