At the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival, I had the pleasure of screening Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story. It was simultaneously fascinating, sad and inspiring! To think I have lived in Southern California all this time and had never heard of this jazz legend!!!
Frank Morgan was an alto sax player who, like so many of his fellow musicians of the era, saw his career plagued by drug addiction. The documentary tells the story of his life and transformation through interviews with fellow musicians and people who were close to him. Holding the story together is footage of the preparation and performance of a tribute concert planned for a prison. The years Frank spent in San Quentin State Prison were significant because there were so many great musicians “in residence” there that the far-sighted warden of the time allowed them to form a big band, known as The San Quentin All Stars. People came from all around the Bay Area to hear them play. Frank was proud to be in that band, and doubtless refined his skills as a musician in the company of the other great players serving time for narcotics related charges.
Once free and decades after the release of his first solo album, Frank became a star at last. His true love, artist Rosalinda Kolb, helped him come back and stay straight. With no children of his own, he saw his legacy in 2007, when he met the young Grace Kelly, a saxophone prodigy. He introduced her to the public at his gigs, and gave her all he could of his wisdom and love in the last months of his life.
About two years ago, I attended a screening of another film, “The Girls In The Band”. One of the women featured in that documentary just happened to be very close friends with Frank Morgan. Clora Bryant, a legendary female trumpeter who crushed it back in the day was feature in this documentary as well. Clora recounted in the film the night she took Frank to a party thrown by Charlie “Bird” Parker and how that was the beginning of his begin seduced by Lady Heroin.
Here is a trailer and please make it priority when it hits New York’s IFC Center on December 2nd and the Laemmle in Los Angeles on December 18th