Legitimately available again on vinyl for the first time since its original release in 1983, Outernational Sounds proudly presents a major statement from a crucial figure on the Los Angeles jazz underground – pianist Nate Morgan’s spiritualised deep jazz classic, Journey Into Nigritia.
How many 16 year olds would have the confidence to walk up to a revered bandleader at a gig, and inform him that one day they’d be playing together? As improbable as it sounds, this is how pianist Nate Morgan introduced himself to the great Horace Tapscott, founder of the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. The teenage Morgan had heard Tapscott’s Flying Dutchman LP The Giant Is Awakened being played by Greg Kufahamu on local Los Angeles radio station KUSC, and Arthur Blythe’s wailing sax had gone ‘straight to the heart. It was a spiritual experience.’ Morgan showed up to all the Arkestra shows he could find. He was already studying with Joe Sample and Hampton Hawes and playing in local bands, but the draw of the Tapscott’s band was too much for the gifted young pianist:
‘I could only take about two or three more concerts before I had to run up on stage. When I first introduced myself to Horace, he tells everybody that I said, “Yeah, I’m Nate Morgan. I’m going to play with you all.” Not that I want to, but that I’m going to.’
Over the next decade and beyond, Morgan would become a central figure in Tapscott’s UGMAA (Union Of God’s Musicians and Artists Ascension’), bringing new figures into the fold (it was Morgan who first hipped Jesse Sharps to Tapscott’s circle; they were lifelong friends), running jam sessions, and eventually being given the task of organising the Arkestra songbook. During the early 1970s he also worked commercially, doing a stint with Rufus and Chaka Khan and appearing on Willie Hutch’s Foxy Brown soundtrack. Into the 1980s and 1990s he remained active, keeping the UGMAA flame alive in late night jams and private sessions, and working tirelessly around LA, including collaborations with Bone Thugs N’ Harmony; he was also part of the early 2000s LA jazz collective Build An Ark. A true musician’s musician, Morgan died in 2013.
Journey Into Nigritia, featuring firebreathing reedsman Dadisi Komolafe, was the first of two LPs Morgan recorded for Tom Albach’s storied Nimbus West imprint. A committed, spiritualised work that showcases Morgan’s heavy composing as well as his McCoy Tyner- influenced and technically flawless playing, Journey features dedications to Coltrane (‘He Left Us A Song’) and Cecil Taylor (‘Study In C.T.’). Surging, modal jazz from the LA undergound, Journey Into Nigritia is a crucial recording by an unsung jazz legend.