JUNIOR MANCE Trio: at the Village Vanguard
Junior Mance (p) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (drs)
Recorded ‘live’ at Village Vanguard in New York City; February 22 & 23, 1961
Looptown (5:12) (Junior Mance)
Letter from Home (4:50) (Junior Mance)
Girl of My Dreams (4:01) (Sunny Clapp)
63rd Street Theme (6:22) (Johnny Griffin)
Smokey Blues (6:39) (Junior Mance)
9:29 Special (5:16) (Engvick-Warren)
Bingo Domingo (4:48) (Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis)
You Are Too Beautiful (5:30) (Rodgers-Hart)
When Junior Mance left for Army duty in 1951, Sonny Stitt remarked: “Junior’ll make it – he’s got a lot of soul,” his way of letting us know that Julian Mance, Jr., possessed a large enough quantity of heart and fortitude to carry him through the most trying situations.
As it happened, things were not too bad. Junior was able to play music at Fort Knox, Kentucky, with the Adderley brothers and Curtis Fuller, among others. The combination of guts and warmth, translated through his piano, that had impressed Lester Young, Stitt and others in pre-war days, left an impression on Cannonball and Nat, too. When the Adderleys formed their first band early in 1956, Mance (fresh from backing Dinah Washington fro 18 months) was invited aboard and remained until they disbanded in November, 1957.
Then another important leader availed himself of Junior’s hands. From March, 1958, until July of 1960, he was a vital part of the Dizzy Gillespie quintet, playing no small part in Diz’s resurgence to the jazz fore. The high-voltage tenor twosome of Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis were the next beneficiaries of Mance’s inspiring “comp” and inspired solos. But this could only be a grief association, for early in 1961 Junior stepped out on a stage he had been setting for four years. As he told Barbara Gardner in a Down Beat interview (April 13, 1961); “It was just after I left Cannon that I got the trio bug.”
While still with Griffin-Davis, Mance made his first Jazzland trio recording (see below). Then in February ’61, Junior’s group made its club debut at the Village Vanguard, scene of many illustrious launchings. The documentation of the event, recorded at the Greenwich Village cellar on February 22nd and 23rd, is contained herein. With Junior are bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley, both temporarily appropriated from Davis and Griffin. Prior association in the quintet molded them into a cohesive rhythm section that ahs no trouble creating its own strong impression without the old of front-line horns.
Chicago is a blues town. It is also Junior Mance’s hometown (if you want to be technical, he was born in suburban Evanston) and he absorbed much of the natural blues flavor there. The boogie-woogie of Pete Johnson, and Albert Ammons captivated him at thirteen. Six years later, playing with Ammons’ son, Gene, helped to open him up in modern jazz. Perhaps his most important training came in 1953-54, when he was part of the permanent trio that backed all visiting horn men who played Chicago’s Bee Hive Lounge. From Coleman Hawkins to Charlie Parker, with stops in between by Lockjaw, Pres and Stitt, can be termed a liberal education.
The eight tracks here, with their distinct “live” feeling, are representative of several facets of Junior’s background. His three compositions are redolent of Chicago blues-dues: Looptown, and up and flying “el” train, charged by hot, electric rhythm figures; Letter From Home, a minor-key, chanting, South Side missive with an insistent message of woe, stamped by Riley and postmarked by Gales; Smokey Blues, just a good-grooved, loose-limbed happy old blues to make you feel fine as you pop a finger and move a haunch. The tremolos toward the end are a soaping-up before Junior’s powerful ride-out bathes your soul.
Johnny Griffin’s 63rd Street Theme is a plaintive, minor-key blues. Junior lets his emotion out in an easier, if no less sincere, manner here. (He doesn’t try for the same level of intensity every time. Thus, the full impact of a climax like that on Smokey Blues is never weakened.) Of the other selections, Girl of My Dreams was part of the Gillespie repertoire and Lockjaw’s Bingo Domingo is in “Lock” and Griffin’s book. 9:20 Special is a continuation of Junior’s tangible remembrances of the big bands. (His first Jazzland album included Ellington’s Main Stem and McShann’s Swingmatism; this one’s for Basie). You Are Too Beautiful demonstrates that he can play a tender ballad without getting sticky.
Fronting his own big band was a boyhood dream of Junior Mance’s. Now in manhood, a more practical desire has been accomplished. I’m not going to say, “these guys sound like a big band,” but Junior does manage to extract the full potential from this chosen format. He may not have a big band, but he does have a very big trio.
Junior’s previous JAZZLAND LP is:
The Soulful Piano of Junior Mance – JLP 30 & Stereo 930S
Mance is also featured on:
Tough Tenors – Johnny Griffin – ‘Lockjaw’ Davis Quintet – JLP 31 & Stereo 931S
Lookin’ at Monk – Johnny Griffin – ‘Lockjaw’ Davis Quintet – JLP 39 & Stereo 939S
Wild Bill’s Beat – Wild Bill Moore Quintet – JLP 38 & Stereo 938S
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photo by STEVE SCHAPIRO
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER and DAVE JONES
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York