Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story Film Screening at Coolidge Corner Theatre
A screening of The Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story, a new documentary about the life of the late alto saxophonist Frank Morgan, took place this past Sunday, April 24, at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard Street, Brookline, Massachusetts. Following the screening, MC Eric Jackson, host of WGBH‘s Eric in the Evening, moderated a conversation with director, NC Heikin, Grace Kelly, and Matt Savage. The film focuses on Morgan, who survived 30 years of incarceration and drug abuse and went on to a comeback career in the last 22 years of his life, during which time he served as a mentor to Kelly. Followed film screening, Brookline native saxophonist, singer, and songwriter, Grace Kelly, performed with bassist Bruce Gertz.
Frank Morgan was a prodigal alto sax player who, like so many of his fellow musicians of the era, saw his career plagued by drug addiction. What sets Frank apart is not just his exceptionally beautiful, classic alto playing, but also the amazing fact that he survived 30 years of revolving door incarceration and drug abuse and went on to a much heralded comeback career in the last 22 years of his life. His story is one of brilliant promise in his youth, a journey through the depths of hell, and redemption through his art.
The documentary film tells the story of his life and transformation through interviews with fellow musicians and people who were close to him. These are intercut with footage of Frank, and tracks of his very emotional music. 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, Frank Morgan proselytized against drugs and played music that moved the critics and public alike. 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. In 2007, he met the young Grace Kelly, a saxophone prodigy. With no children of his own, he saw in her his legacy. 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. Frank Morgan passed away in late 2007.
Read the film review from The New York Times, take a listen to the interview with film director with NC Heikin on JazzontheTube.com, and also Eric Jackson’s interview with Grace Kelly on WGBH Jazz 24/7.