Pardon me it this sounds silly, but I Called Him Morgan – a music documentary about jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan – has too much music. The music itself isn’t bad, but director/producer Kasper Collin has included so much of it that the tunes actually engulf the rest of this otherwise adequate film.
Collin’s doc may seemingly be about Lee Morgan, but the film is much more interested in Morgan’s common-law wife, Helen. Using an exclusive interview by Wilmington teacher Larry Reni Thomas recorded in February ’96 (Helen passed away a mere month later), I Called Him Morgan is given an unforgettable baseline. Through crackly audio, Helen explains how she met Lee and how her love for the talented jazz musician blossomed. Collin interviews the couple’s close friends and acquaintances to flesh out different viewpoints, which comes in handy when the film is building towards its explosive conclusion. The audience is well-aware of the ending before the film begins, but we’re still shocked nonetheless.
However, when the film isn’t providing a narrative, Collin’s pauses his movie to play archival footage of Lee Morgan – lots of archival footage. Morgan truly was a talented jazz musician, but his musical strengths could be explained through a few cutaways and a lingering soundtrack. I Called Him Morgan stops and starts so many times, the audience starts to wonder why (A.) Kasper Collin didn’t just make a short film instead and (B.) why we didn’t settle on listening to one of the famous records Morgan collaborated on.
I Called Him Morgan is a film solely made for jazz aficionados.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie