As co-founder of Baltimore's Left Bank Jazz Society, Vernon Welsh was responsible for bringing a vast wealth of jazz talent to the city, and assembled an enormous archive of live performances that only began to see commercial release after the turn of the millennium. Welsh was born in 1919 in Irvington, MD, and after serving as a bomber pilot in World War II, he studied music through the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1950. A decent jazz guitarist, Welsh found his true forte as a concert promoter after co-founding the Left Bank Jazz Society in 1964 along with president Benny Kearse. The society's weekly Sunday concerts steadily grew in popularity, and following their move into the Famous Ballroom on Baltimore's Charles Street in 1966, they attracted a host of jazz's elite. Welsh served as the MC for the live shows, and from 1965-1980, he frequently tape-recorded the performances (on everyday reel-to-reel equipment) for the society's private archives. Beginning in 1975, those archives were housed at the Morgan State University library, eventually totaling around 800 concerts in all. Never intended for commercial use, the legend of Welsh's recordings grew in jazz circles, and finally the society relented and granted the rights to producer Joel Dorn's new Label M imprint in 2000 (the possibility of tape deterioration, coupled with the society's near-bankruptcy, accounted for the about-face). Welsh lived long enough to see the first several releases in the Live at the Left Bank series; however, he passed away on August 8, 2002.
by Steve Huey