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