Friday, April 6, 2012

It's Going To be A Great Day In Watts... (UPDATED*)

SoCal's own Nate Morgan, one of the premier jazz pianists/composers of his generation, suffered a stroke a month before Christmas 2008. Following two previous 2009 benefits for his medical costs -- one in Leimert Park [video below] and the other in Hollywood -- the *KRST Unity Center of Afrakan Spiritual Science (7825 S. Western Ave., L.A. 90047, 323-759-7567) will host a third fundraiser on Sunday, April 22, 2012 (2pm-6pm). Check out the powerhouse roster of musicians slated to perform: Phil Ranelin, Michael Session, Jesse Sharps and the Gathering, Marla Gibbs, Raspoet Ojenke, Nedra Wheeler, Ndugu Chancellor, Carl Randall, Waberi Jordan, Roberto Miguel Miranda, Kamau Daa'ood, Kafi Roberts, Larry Nash, Fundi Lejohn, Randall Fischer, Kamasi Washington and a whole of a hell lot more. For more info, check out the flyer for the benefit here.

Morgan was a cornerstone of Horace Tapscott's Arkestra (it was he who told a teenage Jesse Sharps about this cat named "Horace" and this band he practiced out in front of the Watts Happening coffeehouse) and led the famous late-night jam sessions in the mid-nineties at the 5th St. Dick's Coffeehouse. He spent a few years in the 1970s with Rufus and Chaka Khan and collaborated in the early 90s with rappers Bone Thugs N' Harmony. He is also one of the best-kept secrets of Los Angeles jazz -- the walking definition of the oft-used phrase "musician's musicians." Besides his frequent residencies at the now-shuttered Charlie O's jazz club in Van Nuys, Morgan most often popped up in a private home salons in Encino given by writer/historian Mimi Melnick, spinning his intoxicatingly (heavily influenced by Stanley Cowell and McCoy Tyner) on a prime-condition 1922 Steinway with the likes of Miranda, Session, Wheeler, Arthur Blythe, John Heard, Charles Owens, Onaje Murray and the late great Sonship Theus. Morgan provided some of the salon's best moments, including a memorable "double piano" duet with Elias Negash and a 2-hour solo performance that many who attended consider the best live show they have ever seen, especially when Morgan played his ode to the late Horace Tapscott, "Tapscottian Waltz," a song that has never been recorded. "I think it's one of the most beautiful compositions I've ever heard--and the way he played it that day, everybody was crying," writer Steven Isoardi recalls. "I had to get up and leave. I was pacing in the front room. It was just too overwhelming."

For a taste of the master, check out his Nimbus West CDs Journey To Nigrita and Retribution, Reparation. (Also look into Sharps & Flats, his collaboration with lifelong friend, woodwind player Jesse Sharps.

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