Mansur Scott: An Epitaph for A Unique Spirit

The Harlem jazz community lost one of its brightest jewels: Mansur Scott.

By Dawoud Kringle


Those who live in Harlem, NY, and were part of the jazz scene knew Mansur Scott. He was the Mayor of Harlem Jazz. His engaging personality, friendly charm, and worldly (and other-worldly) wisdom touched the lives of everyone who he met. He’d had experience as a stage actor, and other artistic performances. But it was his astonishing abilities as a jazz vocalist that made his name.

At one point in his life, he was a protege of Leon Thomas; and eventually became his peer. Gregory Porter held him in high regard. His performances at St. Nick’s Pub are legendary in the Harlem jazz community.

In the late 90s, he was beset by severe health problems. During an appearance at St. Nick’s, while standing in for Leon Thomas, he collapsed on stage from a heart attack and later a stroke that almost cost him his life, and left his left side partially paralyzed for the rest of his days (I did a TV show with him the day before this; and later, would bring my sitar to the hospital to play for him). This did not stop him; he would often say he looked for the “Blessin’ in the lesson.” He returned to performing a mere six months after his first stroke; his amazing singing abilities were not in any way damaged. 

He went on to record a CD titled Sometimes Forgotten, Sometimes Remembered, recorded “Great Voices Of Harlem” (for Pao Records) with Gregory Porter and Donald Smith, and did several tours as a leader in Europe; often playing at some of the larger venues (while his native country failed to give his artistry proper respect).  

But what set him apart from most singers was his ability to inject a powerful spiritual quality and infusion of unconditional love into his music. When he sang songs such as “Nature Boy,” “The Days of Wine and Roses,” or “The Creator Has A Master Plan,” they were no longer standards; they were his; and became the timeless teachings of a sage. This affected his audiences in ways that are too beautiful for the written word to adequately describe. I’ve seen people shed tears while listening to him. In fact, the memory of the beautiful sincerity his music conveyed, and his beautiful spirit, is bringing a tear to my eye as I write this. I can still hear his salutation of “Peace!” which he gave to one and all, in his own inimitable way.

On Monday, May 6th, 2019 (the first day of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar year of 1440), following a prolonged illness, and under the care of his sister, Mansur Scott breathed his last, and was called home.

Those who knew him and heard his music were indeed blessed to have had him in our lives. We will never see his like again.