“SAY FAREWELL TO ANOTHER LEGEND OF LEFT BANK JAZZ SOCIETY”
I remember it as if it were yesterday; the Left Bank Jazz Society at the Famous Ballroom on Charles Street. I was a late comer compared to many of the jazz enthusiasts in Baltimore. I got hooked on Left Bank in the mid 70’s and that is when I met some of the nicest people in the world who live and breathe jazz.
The top of that list was Leon Manker, who invited me as his guest to a jazz concert at 1717 N. Charles St. in Baltimore. During this time I was introduced to Benny Kearse, Phil Harris and Dr. Charles Simmons. After the passing of Mr. Kearse and Mr. Harris, I remained close friends with Mr. Manker and almost every Sunday the LBJS had a concert, I was there.
Not knowing jazz music that well, because my preference in music was always, R&B and Doo-Wop; I quickly learned the types of jazz music and I appreciated the artists who performed so professionally.
The concerts were set up in a cabaret style, BYOB & BYOF, featuring two sets of performances. The guests gave respect to the artists by maintaining an atmosphere conducive to attentive listening. The admission cost was always very reasonable and it included free parking, and set-ups. I met some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world, thanks to Leon Manker. I met Shirley Scott, Nat Adderley, Jack McDuff, Lou Donaldson, Hank Crawford, Jimmy McGriff, Frank Morgan, Poncho Sanchez and, Sun RA, just to name a few of many.
I remember hanging out at the concerts with an old dear friend and he said, “Thanks to the Left Bank Jazz Society, Baltimore is a Mecca of jazz appreciation,” quoted the late Walter Carr Sr.
When I first met the members of the LBJS, I was an entertainment promoter, producer and booking agent at the time, also the manager of Sir Tomas Hurley, Bobby Ward, Andy Ennis and Nikki Cooper and booking agent for the Dave Ross Trio, so therefore, Mr. Manker felt that it was important that I knew who these famous, national recording jazz musician were. A few years later, the organization made me an honorary member, thanks again to Mr. Manker.
Because of funds and the demise of the Famous Ballroom, the jazz concerts were moved to many other locations: Coppin State University, the Community College of Baltimore, Baltimore Grand Ballroom and the last concert place were the Teamsters Union Hall.
I am praying that it is possible that some of the remaining members, such as Dr. Simmons, John Fowler, Mildred Battle and others who are able to bring back the legacy of the Left Bank Jazz Society and not let it fall in the ashes of the past. I promise I will help to do anything in my power to see the organization to lift their spirits again. I believe there are many others who feel the same way and give their support.
The future of the Left Bank Jazz Society greatly depends on being able to get an appropriate venue at minimum cost; support of the Baltimore community as well as patrons; especially by attending the concerts. In return the LBJS will focus to present quality jazz concerts, featuring accomplished musicians at an affordable price for dedicated listeners of jazz music as they have always done in the pass.
Leon Manker was not only a legend with the Historical Left Bank Jazz Society, but one of the founders, as well as the man who at one time booked many of the famous jazz artists for their concerts, but he was a trustee and a founding member of Progressive First Baptist Church on Garrison Blvd. The church and Leon opened a barbeque shed next to the church and Mr. Manker had the people in Baltimore, standing in line and double parked on Garrison Blvd, putting in orders for his famous barbeque ribs and minced barbeque.
Leon Manker passed away on Nov. 25 after a long illness. His funeral was Dec. 7, at Progressive First Baptist Church. With his kind and gentle soul, his heart of gold; his love for music and people will be truly missed. He’s now at the pearly gates of heaven with his friends, Benny Kearse, Vernon Wolst and Phil Harris, handing out tickets to the baddest Left Bank Jazz Society Concert in the world, featuring such artists as; Dexter Gordon, Roland Kirk, Jimmy Heath, Shirley Scott, Count Basie Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Bobby Hutcherson, Rufus Harley, Donald Bailey, Claude Hubbard, Richard Groove Holmes, Charles Earland, Mickey Fields, Horace Silver, and so many more.
Farewell, my dear friend, farewell! For more information about the Left Bank Jazz Society, call Dr. Charles Simmons at 410-276-1844; John Fowler at 410-323-3342 or the present president, Mildred Battle at 410-448-0033.
Well my dear friends; be good to others, treat people the way you want to be treated. Enjoy your holiday. Have a safe and Merry Christmas. Remember, if you need me, call me at 410-833-9474 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read me on line at www.afro.com. Another way is to call the Afro-American at 410-554-8200 and get a subscription. UNTIL THE NEXT TIME, I AM MUSICALLY YOURS.