Junior Mance: Junior ( Verve 1959) UK HMV

Junior-Mance-Junior-cover-1800-LJC-1Selection: Birk’s Works (Gillespie)


Junior Mance (piano) Ray Brown (bass) Lex Humphries (drums) recorded NYC, April 9, 1959

Biographical Note

Drafted into the army in the early ’50s, Junior served his musical apprenticeship in the 36th Army Band at Fort Knox, Kentucky, alongside Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.  After his discharge he joined the house rhythm section of  a Chicago club, accompanying the likes of Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, and Sonny Stitt. In 1956 he reunited with Cannonball Adderley, becoming a member of Cannonball’s first working band.

After a short recording career as leader in the ’60s, he followed the path of many others into music education, teaching blues and jazz  piano. During the ’90s Mance became one of the elite “100 Gold Fingers” – a group of ten outstanding jazz pianists which toured Japan every other year. He was inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame in 1997.

Mance is still going strong today. When not traveling, he can be found every Sunday performing at Cafe’ Loup in NYC.

In another forthcoming date, the Mance is appearing over four days in New York’s Bryant Park  “Piano In The Park” , June 30-July 4, 2014. Sounds a great way to hear a great man.


Billboard awarded Junior Mance’s “Junior” the maximum three stars for this, his first break as leader

The piano trio was vogue for some years in the ’50s and early ’60s   Every label had a trio, including Blue Note and its Three Sounds, and some fairly bland music was released under that banner. Group formats incorporating brass offered a broader musical canvas, whilst in trio, the voice of the piano and drive of the “rhythm section” are crucially exposed. Bill EvansTrio worked so well because  Evans, La Faro and Motian contribute three independent voices, yet feeding off each other. Another interesting trio is the one-off Money Jungle session of Ellington, Mingus and Roach. Nothing bland about that.

Fortunately Mance is up to the task of leading: chords and glittering cascades steeped in blues tradition, the right hand placing economically chosen notes with unerring precision, amidst a rhythmic drive that swings like hell. Ray Brown’s muscular bass walks proud, while Lex Humphries percussive fills maintain the interest. Good trio is found here on Junior. New York Times Jazz Critic John S Wilson wrote of Mance:

“Mr. Mance is a very complete pianist…He simply goes finger dancing – probing, galloping, using silence, breaks, trills, and sudden exclamatory sweeps to create performances that are vivid with color and excitement…He draws his listeners into each selection by establishing a distinctive and provocative rhythmic figure…the kind of electrifying performance that is chalked up permanently in the memories of everyone who heard it. A performance that is looked back on in wonder as the years go by.”


Mance’s interpretation of Gillespie’s classic Birk’s Works soon had L-Jay Cee’s feet tapping.  Must be something in those Telefunken valves, as its been happening rather a lot recently. Rhythm and timing flow better, music makes more sense, becomes easier to follow. I guess its what tubes do. (There’s another ECC83 in the post)

Vinyl:  HMV CLP 1342 – UK 1st release of Verve MGV 8319

It’s Nipper again, poking his nose into the bell-horn  on that maroon early HMV label, EMI pressing. The pleasure of listening to these Verve/HMV editions had me ferreting out all four in my collection, each of which  offered up similarly dynamic presentation.


Junior-Mance-Junior-rearcover-1800-LJCCollectors Corner

I was surprised how much I liked this album, it has revitalised my interest – or lack of – in the format.

Every musician at some point plays in a trio – like the quartet whose horn player doesn’t turn up for the gig –  I’m thinking of artists where the trio was/ is their primary format. Piano Bass and  Drums – the jazz piano trio, love it or hate it, which groups and recordings would be in your top ten list for piano trio and recording if you want to nominate, that stand above the crowd from the cocktail,  lounge bar  and hotel lobby three pieces?

My list to kick off, if we get enough interesting suggestions, we will go to a Poll.

Bill Evans, Scot La Faro, Paul Motian
Andrew Hill,  Richard Davis, Roger Blank
Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock Jack de Johnette
Brad Meldhau, Larry Grenadier, Jeff Ballard (who I prefer to Jorge Rossy)
Hampton Hawes, Jimmy Woode, Art Taylor
Ellington Mingus Roach ( admittedly a one-off)
Ahmad Jamal,  Israel Crosby,  Vernel Fournier (At The Pershing)
Phineus Newborn Paul Chambers Roy Haynes
Herbie Nichols, Teddy Kottick Max Roach
Junior Mance, Ray Brown, Lex Humphries.

Bonus trio allowed – because I can:

Avishai Cohen, Shai Maestro, Mark Guiliana

L-Jay Cee

26 thoughts on “Junior Mance: Junior ( Verve 1959) UK HMV

  1. Technical problem with the photos? I fancied a closer look at the HMV label but it seems that it does not want to enlarge…..
    BTW, John Lewis put some classy piano trio records out over his long recording career, particularly the early Atlantic issues.

  2. No mention of Kenny Drew yet? The Kenny Drew Trio’s Blue Note 5023 is one of my favourites. I also don’t mind a bit of Barry Harris and Phineus Newborn. Piano trios definitely not my favourite ensemble … but there are some great albums out there for when you want a break from the horns for tad.

  3. How about the Ray Bryant trio as heard on Prestige 7098: Ray Bryant, Ike Isaacs, and Specs Wright. Great trio LP.

  4. Nice to see the Mehldau and Cohen trio’s in your list. Great music of contemporary musicians. Sadly not much released on vinyl (that’ll change for sure)

    • A case of “emperor’s new clothes”? Maybe, maybe not. My favourite Ellington trio session is “The Duke Plays Ellington” (Capitol).

    • probably because 1) it’s awesome 2) mingus kills the intro 3) it’s a neat idea and 4) it doesn’t involve duke playing cocktail party “a train” nonsense for once. also it is on a collectible label.

      but these are just my opinions. i offing love that album.

  5. i do not much like the piano-bass-drums trio. but howard riley did some fun stuff like that. as did michael smith.

  6. And where are Tommy Flanagan,Hank Jones( the most recorded pianist in modern jazz) and my absolute favorite Barry Harris?

    • Rudy Van Gelder mentioned his favorite sessions were all those with the Red Garland Trio.

      We Three- Haynes, PC, Phineas Newborn (New Jazz)

      Rene Urtreger Trio (Versailles)

      John Hicks- Trio Inc (DIW)

      Georges Arvanitas Trio- 3 a.m. (Pretoria)

      Tete Montoliu Trio- Catalonian Nights (Steeplechase)

      EST Trio- Live in Hamburg (evil silver disc)

      Horace Parlan- Us Three, Headin South and Movin’ and Groovin (Blue Note)

      Bill Evans Trio- How My Heart Sings (Riverside)

      Walter Bishop Jr.- Speak Low (Jazztime)

      There is more, but that is a good start.

      • With Rudy I am in good company regarding all the Red Garland trios.
        If I am correct, nobody mentions the Bobby Timmons trio (maybe correctly so. He is in the same league as the subject Junior Mance trio – a record which I had in my collection and sold after one hearing).

        • Agree as to both Mance and Timmons. While I enjoy Timmons well enough in the Jazz Messengers and with Cannonball’s group, I find his trio playing very unsatisfying. Here is what our friends had to say about him in the essential Jazz on Record (Mance barely gets a mention):

          “A slightly younger musician, Bobby Timmons, who had set out as a straightforward Powell imitator, briefly made a name for himself by grafting pieces of Silver and chunks of Garland, and generally making a travesty of all three. In fact, he has yet to make a completely successful record, but his most interesting contains the trio version of his archetypal ‘gospel’ theme, Moanin’. The popularity of this sort of music has not died out, of course, for it has gradually been absorbed into the pop rhythm-and-blues scene, but the pianists have continued to multiply and to fly backwards in ever-decreasing, concentric circles ever since Les McCann became the first to out-Timmons Timmons (to date, the smallest circle seems to have been created by Ramsey Lewis.”


  7. I badly miss Red Garland, PC, A.T., who worked together in and out of the Prestige studio for over two years, and Bud Powell with George Duvivier and A.T.on Norgran and Blue Note. For the rest: Cecil Taylor, Buell Neidlinger, Dennis Charles/or Billy Higgins and the Herbie Nichols sides with Art Blakey.

    • You really can’t beat it. “We Three” is my go-to record for trios, Red Garland’s Groovy (RG + PC + AT) coming in at no. 2.

      I think the most underrated trio is Billy Taylor’s Town Hall line-up in 1957 (Prestige 7093) with Earl May and Percy Brice. It deserves more acclaim.

      Maybe an official poll is in order … oh LJC cough !

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