SOUND OF REDEMPTION
"Moves beyond happy and sad, and toward something like brilliance."
- New York Times
"2015 has been a great year for music docs, with films about Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone... scoring with audiences and critics. And here, at year's end, comes "Sound of Redemption" - as good as any."
- LA Times
"Frank Morgan Soars and Scores... in NC Heikin's hurtin' beauty of a doc."
- Village Voice
An all-too-familiar story of a charismatic yet self-destructive artist is presented with sympathetic tact - and, better still, a relatively happy ending - in "Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story," NC Heikin's affectionate portrait of the late jazz great once viewed as a musical heir to Charlie "Bird" Parker. The documentary adroitly sustains interest with a standard-issue mix of archival material, interviews with intimates and admirers, actors' voiceovers and dramatic re-creations. But jazz aficionados and mainstream audiences alike probably will be more captivated by the extended riffs during a 2012 tribute concert performed at San Quentin State Prison - where Frank Morgan (1933-2007) spent a goodly portion of his troubled life.
Smoothly interspersed with the biographical narrative are highlights from the 2012 tribute concert, where many of the songs recorded by Morgan are performed by a stellar lineup that includes trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis (who serves as chief storyteller and master of ceremonies), pianist George Cables, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith, and saxophonists Grace Kelly and Mark Gross. The ensemble is nothing short of terrific, individually and collectively, but Kelly, a friend and protege of Morgan, is the one who takes the movie and tucks it into her pocket for the as long as it takes her to perform her soulful rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
For all its time spent dwelling in the lower depths, "Sound of Redemption" ultimately fulfills the promise implicit in its title by reporting how Morgan managed - despite a period of backsliding - to rebuild his life and career after leaving prison for the last time in 1985, with no little help from painter Rosalinda Kolb, his companion (and, for a while, his wife) of several years. Once again, however, the viewer is left with profoundly mixed emotions, haunted by questions of what might and should have been. The documentary doesn't reference it, but the title of Kolb's 2014 memoir - "Leave 'Em Hungry: A Love Story and Cautionary Tale" - may be the definitive description of, to paraphrase Roberto Benigni in Jim Jarmusch's "Down By Law," a sad and beautiful life.
18 December 2015
"Here at Jazz on the Tube we spend hours each week poring over jazz video archives to find the best ones to share with you each day. Imagine our joy at the birth of a brand new masterpiece of jazz
- Lester Perkins, Jazz on the Tube
"By following up the chilling yet strangely elegant North Korean expose Kimjongilia with her sensitive and swinging portrait of Morgan, Heikin might just become our new favorite filmmaker. Her instincts are sharp and reliable, while her aesthetic sensibilities are unerringly sophisticated."
- J.B Spins
30 July 2015
"N.C. Heikin's terrific music documentary interweaves a great concert by the late jazzman's admirers and acolytes at the Bay Area prison with a stirring history of both the L.A. music scene and mid-century, African American show business in general. But really, the kickiest part is when it recounts the ingenious criminal schemes Morgan dreamed up to support his gargantuan heroin habit."
- Los Angeles Daily News
16 June 2014
"If you're a Jazz fan but unfamiliar with the Charlie Parker protege Frank Morgan, "Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story" will school you on a saxophone virtuoso and convict who lived what sounds like four adventurous, glamorous, tragic lives while earning the title "the new Bird." "Redemption" traces how deep the comparisons cut into Morgan's psyche."
9 June 2014
BBC News Coveraage
11 February 2009