Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
'Jessica Jones' Producers Share Details on How Involved Luke Cage Will Be in the Series 'Jessica Jones' Producers Share Details on How Involved Luke Cage Will Be in the Series Danny Glover's Toussaint L'Ouverture Film That Never Was, But Could Still Be & Other Films on the Haitian Revolutionary Danny Glover's Toussaint L'Ouverture Film That Never Was, But Could Still Be & Other Films on the Haitian Revolutionary HBO Boss Says Issa Rae's Series Casting Now, Slightly Different in Tone from Web Series, Don't Expect Until 2016/2017 HBO Boss Says Issa Rae's Series Casting Now, Slightly Different in Tone from Web Series, Don't Expect Until 2016/2017 Nice! Lupita Nyong’o Will Star in Danai Gurira's Liberia Civil War Drama ''Eclipsed' Nice! Lupita Nyong’o Will Star in Danai Gurira's Liberia Civil War Drama ''Eclipsed' S&A Call for Films That Speak to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement - Cash Award for the Strongest S&A Call for Films That Speak to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement - Cash Award for the Strongest Watch Episode One of Controversial Caribbean-Set TV Series ‘Chee$e’ Watch Episode One of Controversial Caribbean-Set TV Series ‘Chee$e’ John Legend and His Get Lifted Production Company to Executive Produce WGN America's 'Underground' John Legend and His Get Lifted Production Company to Executive Produce WGN America's 'Underground' Nollywood Is a Genre of Nigerian Film & Not the Entire Nigerian Film Industry (Watch Al Jazeera's New Documentary) Nollywood Is a Genre of Nigerian Film & Not the Entire Nigerian Film Industry (Watch Al Jazeera's New Documentary) It Looks Like 'Beasts of No Nation' Will Be THE "Black Film" in Awards Season Contention This Year - With 9 Other Potentials It Looks Like 'Beasts of No Nation' Will Be THE "Black Film" in Awards Season Contention This Year - With 9 Other Potentials Marvel Hopes to Release a New Netflix Series Every 6 Months - Including 'Luke Cage' & 'The Defenders' of Course Marvel Hopes to Release a New Netflix Series Every 6 Months - Including 'Luke Cage' & 'The Defenders' of Course Queen Latifah Will Play Wiz and Mary J. Blige Is Evillene in NBC's Musical Production of 'The Wiz' Queen Latifah Will Play Wiz and Mary J. Blige Is Evillene in NBC's Musical Production of 'The Wiz' 'Shaft' Reboot Draws 'Black-ish' Creator Kenya Barris as Writer - Studio Aiming for Something More Comedic 'Shaft' Reboot Draws 'Black-ish' Creator Kenya Barris as Writer - Studio Aiming for Something More Comedic 5 Tips on Writing No-Budget/Low-Budget Feature Screenplays... Back (or Rather Black) By Popular Demand... 5 Tips on Writing No-Budget/Low-Budget Feature Screenplays... Back (or Rather Black) By Popular Demand... What's Wrong with Being Black and Chasing Your Hollywood Dream? What's Wrong with Being Black and Chasing Your Hollywood Dream? Starz Announces Return Date for Original Series 'Power' + New Key Art + Trailer Starz Announces Return Date for Original Series 'Power' + New Key Art + Trailer Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Third 'Best Man' Movie Gets a Title, an Official 2016 Release Date & A Most Unexpected Wedding Third 'Best Man' Movie Gets a Title, an Official 2016 Release Date & A Most Unexpected Wedding Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

LAFF Review: 'Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story' is a Well-Meaning but Tepid Look at the Life of a Jazz Legend

Photo of Jai Tiggett By Jai Tiggett | Shadow and Act June 20, 2014 at 6:38PM

Highly respected by musicians and fans of the bebop genre, his life and career were stifled by the 30 years he spent cycling in and out of San Quentin prison.
15
Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story

"Sound of Redemption" tells the story of a lesser-known name in the canon of influential jazz musicians, gifted saxophone player Frank Morgan. Highly respected by musicians and fans of the bebop genre, his life and career were stifled by the 30 years he spent cycling in and out of San Quentin prison. The film had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival, accompanied by a musical tribute to Morgan at the Grammy Museum.

N.C. Heikin, director of the 2009 North Korean refugee documentary "Kimjongilia," looks to weave an inspiring tale out of Morgan's turbulent life and eventual comeback, but what results is a story not much different from those of the scores of other artists who struggle to overcome the lure of drugs and crime.

The film is bookended by a tribute concert being held at San Quentin after Morgan's death. As proteges and admirers play his music and read excerpts from his life story to an attentive crowd of prisoners, the scene turns to still photos, archival footage and talking head interviews with Morgan's family, fellow musicians and friends.

They paint a picture of a child musical prodigy with a troubled family life who, by the time he reaches his teens in the late 1940s, has become skilled enough to play alongside professional musicians, sitting in on jam sessions and competing in contests. His talent puts him in the presence of such luminaries as Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker, whom he considers a major influence. But early on he also develops a heroin habit that halts his career as he sinks into a life of addiction and crime.

Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story

In addition to the smooth jazz soundtrack throughout, the highlights here are the anecdotes shared by Morgan's loved ones, whose enthusiasm for his music and personality are obvious. When Morgan's manager details a few of his money-making schemes to support his drug habit, we get a glimpse into Morgan's creative genius as well as his street smarts.

Maybe it's because stories like this have been told so many times, with the same beats of tragedy and triumph, that "Redemption" isn't able to reach its full impact. The tale of the brilliant-but-troubled artist, complete with family issues, drug-fueled exploits and a touch of racism along the way to an ultimate comeback, has become an all-too-familiar trope in both narrative and documentary films. And while this film explores a true story, that story is told in such a traditional and typical style that it doesn't distinguish itself much from all those other tales.

There's also the fact that Morgan himself is only accessible in archival interviews; towards the end of his life as he resumes a recording career post-prison but is still haunted by his own demons, there's ambiguity as we aren't able to get inside his head to uncover the biggest mysteries of his life. As the title indicates, the film suggests that Morgan's music outweighs all unanswered questions, yet it still doesn't make for a fully satisfying climax. It opts for easy answers – "music cures all" – and doesn't seem to delve as deeply into Morgan's story, or the issues surrounding it, as it might.

Ultimately, "Sound of Redemption" honors the life of a noted musician, but doesn't quite make the same impact as its subject or the music he left behind.  

Distribution plans haven't been announced as yet.

This article is related to: Documentary, Reviews, L.A. Film Fest, Festivals


Shadow & ActNewsletter