"This man, had he gone on, would have been one of the most prevalent jazz trumpeters in history," says Artt Frank, a legendary be-bop drummer who has worked with everyone from Chet Baker (for more than twenty years) to Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. "He had that much talent, and he had that much depth." The Connecticut-based Frank, who makes two trips a year to Kansas City, first saw Morrissey perform three years ago at the Plaza III. "I heard something in his playing that really moved me, and I think it was a poignancy, a sadness in his playing. When I met him, he was what we call a shriller, a screecher, a very forceful trumpet player, but something inside the playing was very tender."
Frank approached Morrissey, who immediately recognized him and knew of Frank's connection with Baker and asked him to get together for a jam session the following week. Impressed with the results, Frank gave Morrissey tapes of his collaborations with Baker to see how he would respond. "The next time I heard Pat play, it was almost a complete turnaround," Frank says. "He had this great big, wide, fat, warm sound that wasn't present when I first heard him. This told me this guy had an awful lot inside that was not coming out. I've been playing for 57 years, and there's something you hear in a musician that you know he either has it or he doesn't. Pat Morrissey definitely had it."
Joined by Harold Danko on piano and Phil Bowler on bass (the other two-thirds of the rhythm section that backed Baker), Frank and Morrissey recorded Souvenir, a Chet Baker tribute CD. This disc surpassed the standard set by 1999's excellent P.M. Time, showcasing Morrissey's emerging smooth tone and strong sense of melody. "He began to soar," Frank says. "What he had in him was making itself known."
At the same time, Morrissey himself was becoming increasingly well known. "He had grown tremendously over the past fifteen years," says Ron Rooks, owner of The Music Exchange. "He probably had the best tone, the most Miles Davis-style tone, of any of the current horn players around on a national scale. When he went out of town, he could play anywhere, but he chose to stay here. Kansas City is a very small town and a very tight-knit, closed society as far as music goes. All of us know each other, who plays what, who is reliable and who isn't reliable. Pat was somebody that they could always depend on to give a quality performance at a gig."
For Morrissey, a quality performance complemented stellar musical output with showmanship. Rooks recalls one Christmas program when Morrissey stood out from his nattily attired peers by donning a bright green sequined jacket. "He just looked cool," Rooks says. "He wasn't afraid to be noticed because his playing backed up what he projected as his image."