Frank Morgan (December 23, 1933 – December 14, 2007) was a jazz saxophonist with a career spanning more than 50 years. He mainly played alto saxophone but also played soprano saxophone. He was known as a Charlie Parker successor who primarily played bebop and ballads.
As a teenager Morgan had opportunities to jam with the likes of Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray on Sunday afternoons at the Crystal Tearoom. When he was just 15 years old, Morgan was offered Johnny Hodges‘s spot in Duke Ellington‘s Orchestra, but Stanley deemed him too young for touring. Instead he joined the house band at Club Alabam where he backed vocal luminaries such as Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker.That same year he won a television talent-show contest, the prize of which was a recording session with the Freddy Martin Orchestra, playing “Over the Rainbow” in an arrangement by Ray Conniff, with vocals by Merv Griffin. Morgan attended Jefferson High School during the day, where he played in the school big band that also spawned jazz greats Art Farmer, Ed Thigpen, Chico Hamilton, Sonny Criss, and Dexter Gordon. Morgan stayed in contact with Parker during these years, finding himself in jam sessions at Hollywoodcelebrities’ homes when Parker visited L.A. In 1952, Morgan earned a spot in Lionel Hampton‘s band, but his first arrest in 1953 prevented him from joining the Clifford Brown and Max Roachquintet (that role went instead to Harold Land, and later, Sonny Rollins). He made his recording debut on February 20, 1953 with Teddy Charles and his West Coasters in a session for Prestige Records. This sextet featured short-lived tenor player Wardell Gray and was included on the 1983 posthumous release Wardell Gray Memorial Volume 1. On November 1, 1954, Morgan cut five tracks with the Kenny Clarke Sextet for Savoy Records, four of which were released with Clarke billed as the leader, with “I’ve Lost Your Love” credited to writer Milt Jackson as leader.Morgan recorded an all-star date with Wild Bill Davis and Conte Candoli on January 29, 1955 and participated in a second recording session on March 31, 1955 with Candoli, Wardell Gray, Leroy Vinnegar and others, which were combined and released in 1955 as Morgan’s first album, Frank Morgan, by GNP Crescendo Records. Later releases also included five tracks cut at the Crescendo Club in L.A. on August 11, 1956 with a sextet featuring Bobby Timmons and Jack Sheldon.