Obituary: Alun Morgan

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Despite what some people unaccountably see as my hostile nature, I have had many, many good friends during my life. Perhaps I never had one that was better or closer than Alun Morgan. In turn Alun had many more friends than I, and he must have been one of the most well-loved writers about our music – loved for the gentle, generous person that he was and taken for granted as the writer most gifted at enlightening anyone who wanted to know about jazz. And he was not a dispenser of partisan judgements. Any opinion he expressed was invariably informed and comprehensive, for he lived and breathed our music. I can’t recall him ever making a mistake in print and, particularly considering the enormous size of his output, that would be a remarkable record.

Alun took in every fact about jazz and never forgot one. Consequently he had a massive history available to him when he chose to use his beautiful writing style on any subject

And what a fine writer he was. He was also, when given the chance, just as good at broadcasting, and we did many radio programmes together. (Remarkably the only time Alun and I met was during Duke Ellington’s first post-war tour when we took the opportunity to meet the Ellingtonians and on that same weekend broadcast together from Broadcasting House).

Alun took in every fact about jazz and never forgot one. Consequently he had a massive history available to him when he chose to use his beautiful writing style on any subject.

You can’t miss his work. Since the invention of the LP he had written more than 3,000 liner notes. His name at the bottom of one was the ultimate guarantee of quality, and with it came a promise of ultimate accuracy. A good source of his combination of scholarly and fascinating work is in the liner notes that he wrote for the various CDs produced by Dick Bank for Fresh Sound Records featuring Jan Lundgren and others. Alun wasn’t frightened of hard work and, as well as the fields full of his prose, he contributed constantly and tirelessly to the pursuit of discography, leaving masses of reference work for others to benefit from.

Naturally he had a huge collection, and the music in it came from every obscure corner of the jazz world. He was one of the most generous men you could meet – he browbeat me into writing my book on Woody Herman and then provided me with every scrap of material that he had on the great man. His own books, including two on Count Basie, were so well-written that they haven’t dated in any way and, in Modern Jazz (1956) he and Raymond Horricks created an introduction to bebop that was the first intelligent guide to the music. It is before me as I write, and it remains as lucid and as fresh as it ever was.

Alun was born on 24 February 1928 in Pontypridd. Like me and many others he joined the RAF at Padgate, becoming an airframe mechanic. I always remember him telling me how the air crew were always nice to him on the grounds that he was responsible for checking their aircraft for its safety to fly.

On demob, he missed the RAF and planned to travel to New Zealand to join its air force. Fortunately he didn’t but trained as and became a gifted architect. He eventually moved from London to Kent, where he wrote a column on jazz for the local paper for several decades. He wrote for many jazz magazines and this one was where what transpired to be his final articles were published.

Eventually he and his wife Irene went to live in Brisbane, a move that they never regretted. He died three months after Irene on 11 November 2018.