Pianist/Composer Nate Morgan
SoCal’s own Nate Morgan, one of the premier jazz pianists/composers of his generation, suffered a stroke a few days ago. “His left side is paralyzed,” said a friend who visited Nate at a Torrance hospital on Sunday. “But he is speaking and his mind is fine as ever.”
Morgan, the very definition of the oft-used phrase “musician’s musician,” was a cornerstone of Horace Tapscott’s Ark (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: besides his frequent residencies at Charlie O’s in Van Nuys, Morgan most often popped up in a private home salons in Encino given by writer/historian Mimi Melnick, spinning his intoxicatingly fluid.style (heavily influenced by Stanley Cowell and McCoy Tyner) on a prime-condition 1922 Steinway with the likes of Arthur Blythe, John Heard, Charles Owens, Onaje Murray, Michael Session, Roberto Miranda, Nedra Wheeler and Sonship Theus. He 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 and Sharps & Flats, his collaboration with lifelong friend, woodwind player Jesse Sharps.
When we spoke with Mr. Morgan at a show a few years ago, he was going in on Mondays for dialysis, but he said playing the piano made the stent in his arm feel better. Now, he begins physical therapy, and hopefully a full recovery over time.
Get well soon, Sir Nate!