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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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JUNIOR MANCE

Three Classic Albums Plus

Avid AMSC 1090

 

 


CD1

"Junior"

1. A Smooth One

2. Miss Jackie’s Delight

3. Whisper Not

4. Love For Sale

5. Lilacs In The Rain

6. Small Fry

7. Jubilation

8. Birk’s Works

9. Blues For Beverlee

10. Junior’s Tune

Junior Mance – Piano

Ray Brown – Bass

Lex Humphries - Drums

The Soulful Piano Of Junior Mance

11. The Uptown

12. Ralph’s New Blues

13. Main Stem

14. Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup

15. Playhouse

16. Sweet And Lovely

17. Oo-Bla-Dee

18. I Didn’t Care

Junior Mance – Piano

Bobby Thomas – Drums

Ben Tucker - Bass

CD2

The Soulful Piano Of Junior Mance

1. Swingmatism

Junior Mance – Piano

Bobby Thomas – Drums

Ben Tucker – Bass

Junior Mance Trio At The Village Vanguard

2. Looptown

3. Letter From Home

4. Girl Of My Dreams

5. 63rd Street Dreams

6. Smoky Blues

7. 9.20 Special

8. Bingo Domingo

9. You Are Too Beautiful

Junior Mance – Piano

Larry Gales – Bass

Ben Riley – Drums

Big Chief!

10. Big Chief

11. Love For Sale

12. The Seasons

13. Filet Of Soul

14. Swish

15. Summertime

16. Ruby, My Dear

Junior Mance – Piano

Jimmy Rouser – Bass

Paul Gusman – Drums

 

The musical story of Junior Mance continues to be written as the 84-year-old pianist remains an active performer in concerts and clubs as well as with his recording career. With an extensive back catalogue along with this wonderful re-issue from Avid of his late fifties and early sixties sessions, we are treated to a pianist of creative shrewdness who is steeped in a bluesy approach to the material.

CD1

Junior”& The Soulful Piano Of Junior Mance

Junior Mance was born in Chicago in 1928 and self-started on the piano at the age of 5. He tells Marc Myers of JazzWax in an interview on January 5, 2011, he took his first gig in Chicago at the age of 10. As a teenager, he worked with Gene Ammons where he did his first recordings in 1947 and 1949 and in 1950 he was in the band for a Gene Ammons-Sonny Stitt date. Subsequently he was part of an early Cannonball Adderley Quintet and spent time with Dizzy Gillespie. He was also the accompanist for Dinah Washington and can be heard on Dinah Jams and In The Land Of Hi-Fi.

In these first trio sessions under his own name, Mance laid the groundwork with his nimble touch and expressive flair. There can be no better way of doing this than by having bassist Ray Brown as part of your trio. With his rock-solid beat and deep tone, Brown makes Mance a better player on each track of “ Junior”. With additional unwavering support from drummer Lex Humphries, Mance builds his style from the opening bars of A Smooth One. Each track is a treat but there are several worth special mention. Love For Sale is an up-tempo gem with Mance dancing over the keys with glossy flair. Mance demonstrates that he can deliver the goods with his own compositions including Jubilation, Blues For Beverlee and Junior’s Tune. Brown supplies an impeccable solo on “Blues” that underscores Mance’s understanding of that musical expression.

Mance’s continued development as a pianist is evident on “Soulful” and although bassist Tucker and drummer Thomas established an off-the-cuff interplay, the missing steadying influence of Ray Brown is noticeable. Nevertheless Mance shows no fear and continues to exhibit a dramatic grasp of tone and touch. Working his way through the tunes that he has chosen for the album, Mance shows interest in a broad range of musical styles but with a grounding in the blues. Starting with his own composition The Uptown and then seguing into Milt Jackson’s Ralph’s New Blues Mance delivers the tunes with a cool self-confidence and soulful style. Much has been made about the similarity of playing style with one of his contemporaries Ray Bryant, and that is eerily evident on Bryant’s composition I Don’t Care. The session ends with a Jay McShann classic Swingmatism which for reasons of time constraints starts off CD2.

CD2

Junior Mance Trio At The Village Vanguard & Big Chief!

The year 1961 was a momentous one for Junior Mance. He won Down Beat’s International Critics’ Poll as The New Star Pianist, and he recorded a live session at The Village Vanguard to much acclaim. However, this session should not in any way be confused with the idolatry that was bestowed on the Bill Evans Village Vanguard stay that took place in June of 1961. Nevertheless Mance did acquit himself with distinction and gave his fans the kind of music they had come to expect. Starting off with one of his own compositions entitled Looptown in honor of Chicago’s “el” train gives his fingers a blazing workout. Carrying on with the Chicago-based themes are two more of Mance’s efforts, Letters From Home and Smokey Blues, each of which contains funky blues lines that develop terrific support from bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley. For an interesting change of pace the ballad You Are Too Beautiful gives Mance the opportunity to show that he was a virtuoso with a poetic awareness.

The origin of the album name Big Chief! is without an adequate explanation other than the fact that it was recorded with Mance’s working unit and that bassist Jimmy Rouser brought a sonorous Ray Brown feel to his playing and thus pushed Mance along with cadenced fluency. The tracks presented here are only part of the original album, which has been condensed for time purposes. There are several tracks worth mentioning, including a blazing tempo rendition of Love For Sale which surpasses the version done on CD1. The George and Ira Gershwin standard Summertime is offered in ¾ time which gives it an entirely new dimension. Finally the Thelonious Monk classic Ruby, My Dear with its ascending chord changes is always a pianist's challenge but one which Mance shows he is up to.

While Junior Mance may not be an innovator, in this re-issue he demonstrates that he has an individual, percussive and swinging relationship with the piano.

Pierre Giroux



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