The Ken Morgan Jazz Unit presents a free concert Tuesday night at the Oshtemo branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library. Ken Morgan has played professionally for 60 years, he’s a flute and saxophone player as well as a band leader.
He says music became a part of his life in fourth grade. By the 9th grade Morgan was playing in clubs, and over his career he’s appeared on stage with the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Louis Armstrong, among many other jazz giants. He says a recent trip to India to teach sick, poverty-stricken children about making music has him thinking more than ever about the power of music.
“When I came back I really felt as though I didn’t want to spend as much time entertaining with music as I wanted to try to communicate some really important messages with the music,” he says. “The power of music to bring people together, to develop community, to move people from hostile, aggressive types of emotions to more service-based, working together kinds of feelings became really important to me.”
Morgan says he’s currently focusing on world music and trying to integrate sounds from India and Africa into his performances.
“I think for me,” he says, “it’s the fact that when you bring the music together from various cultures, you also bring the people together. And, with the tremendous need on a global level for people to come together, this is really an opportunity through the music, and symbolically to do that.”
With 60 years of experience as a musician, Morgan even dreams about music. He says a recurring dream has him wondering what would happen if musicians, instead of troops, were sent into areas of war and conflict.
“My question is would we have people dancing in the streets or would we have several thousand dead musicians. And, I really don’t know the answer to that. But, I sort of have a strong feeling that it would have the effect of bringing people together in a positive way.”
Charlie Parker, the great jazz saxophonist said something that’s always stayed with me. He said all you need to do in order to play music is learn everything there is to know about your instrument, learn everything there is to know about music, and then forget it all and play. And, it’s that last part that has become a lot more important to me. To try and get into that state of consciousness where I’m not aware of the room that I’m in or the people around, but trying to let the music lead me instead of trying to control the music. Because I do think that music comes from somewhere else, you know, a higher power, perhaps. And, if I can surrender myself to that then I’m gonna be able to get into that magical part of the music.
The Ken Morgan Jazz Unit performs a free concert Tuesday, December 11, at 6:30 p.m. at the Oshtemo branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library. On woodwinds, Morgan will be joined by pianist Terry Lower and bassist John Wegge.