Toronto, Telluride, New York, London, Vancouver, Mumbai, Philadelphia, In-Edit, Stockholm, Palm Springs, Thessaloniki Doc, Tempo Doc, CPH:DOX
The story of the ultimately ill-fated relationship between jazz musician Lee Morgan and his common-law wife Helen.
Recognized as a legend among jazz cognoscenti, Morgan’s early death cost him more widespread popular recognition. Collin’s film aims to pay the trumpeter his due, laying out his history and accomplishments, including touring with Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey, while also exploring the darker side of the life of a performer – in this case a long struggle with cocaine addiction that nearly cost him his career. What allows this portrait to transcend the conventional beats of the musician bio doc, however, is in Collin’s focus on Morgan’s relationship with Helen, represented here in an interview recorded in 1996, a month before her death. Aided by a thoughtful, atmospheric production design, and, of course, Morgan’s music, what emerges is an engrossing, intriguing tale that transports the viewer back to Morgan and Ruth’s milieu of New York City jazz clubs in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Even as Ruth’s support enabled Morgan to beat his addiction and make a successful comeback, she ultimately took his life, shooting the 33-year-old while he was performing at an East Village jazz club in February 1972.