Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story
Vancouver International Film Festival Community Partner Screening
The Vancouver Biennale is proud to partner with The Vancouver International Film Festival for the screenings of Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story.
Not familiar with Frank Morgan? He was Charlie Parker’s protégé and played with Billie Holiday. His father (a jazzer with The Ink Spots) always used to say that Frank was “the best sax player in the world. But…” That “but” concealed a multitude of sins: bank robbery, larceny, forgery, burglary. He spent what should have been his prime in San Quentin. Instead of a career, he had a habit.
That’s an old story in jazz. “Playing bebop makes you crazy,” went the legend. Part of it was Bird’s shadow: every young gun wanted what he had and junk seemed key. Part of it was Jim Crow: they called Los Angeles “Mississippi with palm trees” in the 1950s. Part of it was personal: Frank’s mother was a prostitute and, when he wasn’t playing guitar, his daddy was a pimp. Frank grew up in a brothel with his grandparents. Heroin washed all that away and San Quentin had its benefits. It was easier than the world and, inside, he was a star. There were so many incarcerated musicians in the 60s, the warden’s big band included the likes of Art Pepper and Dexter Gordon. Civilians came every Saturday to hear them play. “Best band I ever played in,” Morgan admits…
“N.C. Heikin’s terrific music documentary interweaves a great concert by the late jazzman’s admirers and acolytes at the Bay Area prison with a stirring history of both the L.A. music scene and mid-century, African American show business in general. But really, the kickiest part is when it recounts the ingenious criminal schemes Morgan dreamed up to support his gargantuan heroin habit.”—Los Angeles Daily News