“Well known trumpet player Lee Morgan was fatally shot Saturday morning in an East Village Jazz Club. Police said the 33-year-old Morgan quarreled earlier with his wife Helen Morgan who shot the musician once in the chest after he completed a late-night set. Police have arrested Mrs. Morgan.” On the night of February 19, 1972, Helen Morgan walked into the East Village bar Slug’s Saloon with a gun in her handbag. She came to see her common-law husband, the great jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan, whom she had nursed through heroin addiction. They fought, he literally threw her out; then she walked back in and shot him, handed over her gun and waited for the police to arrive.
“I was very angry that was my first response. And yet this is a woman who literally picked this man up out of the gutter and made it possible for him to function again as a human being.” The murder sent shock waves through the jazz community, and the memory of the event still haunts those who knew the Morgans.
“They were both together they were always the people we related to, both of them.” ‘I Called Him Morgan’ a feature documentary by Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collin is a love letter to two unique personalities and the music that brought them together. Years later Helen was interviewed about her life with the brilliant but erratic musician, and the tapes of that interview are the backbone of this beautifully crafted and deeply affecting documentary film.
“I thought Helen was super. She was unafraid to be with a person who was unstable.” ‘I Called Him Morgan,’ a film about love, jazz and America made its world premiere at the 2016 Venice International Film Festival, then screened at the Toronto, Telluride and is an NYFF54 selection. The documentary is now streaming on Netflix.