Happy Time: JUNIOR MANCE Trio
Junior Mance (p) Ron Carter (b) Mickey Roker (drs)
New York City; June 20, 1962
Happy Time (6:14) (Junior Mance)
Jutterbug Waltz (5:18) (Fats Waller)
Out South (5:28) (Junior Mance)
Tin Tin Deo (4:39) (Pozo – Fuller)
For Dancers Only (5:48) (Sy Oliver)
Taggie’s Tune (4:36) (Junior Mance)
Azure Te (5:32) (Bill Davis)
Simple Waltz (5:21) (Clark Terry)
If they gave out medals for the musicians who is the least trouble in the studio, chances are that Junior Mance, who is celebrated for the ease with which he handles himself in the recording studio, would look very much like a returning Olympic hero.
That “ease” does not imply anything even remotely approaching the lackadaisical will be obvious to one and all just as soon as the needle is placed in the first groove of Junior’s swinging and soulful title tune, Happy Time. It is also made abundantly clear every time he breaks it up in the course of a night club set. (As one club-owner, not normally noted for a pleasant disposition, smilingly put it: “The audience likes what he does, but I’d book him again even if they didn’t, because I like it, and I like to deal with him” What rarer tribute can there e in this life?) The significance of all this to the public is that the relaxed way that Mance faces his surroundings and his material can only result in an extremely and consistently easy-listening musical product.
To prevent these comments, coupled with the apparently unshakeable nickname of “Junior”, from leading anyone to think of Julian C. Mance, Jr., as some naively cheery novice, let it quickly be added that he is a thorough-going professional. Although just into his thirties, some fifteen years of playing experience lie behind him, including such varied, rigorous and valuable training schools as those conducted by Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Ammons, Lester Young, Dinah Washington, Johnny Griffin-and-Lockjaw Davis, and culminating in the formation of his own trio.
With all the refinements his style has undergone during that period, Junior ahs never lost his basic enthusiasm. For him, the joy of playing is just as strong as when he first began to play. His blues feeling is natural; his interpretations of the melodies of others are quite personal, yet respectful. I say blues feeling for a specific reason. Many of the numbers in this and other Mance albums, although not of 12-bar construction, are certainly fully representative of the blues. Specifically, the very variety of bar structure is an important aid in the pacing of this set.
As for the element of ‘respect’ for other composers, let me cite the notes for “Big Chief”, the Mance trio album immediately preceding this one. In them Joe Goldberg, referring to the way Junior adapts material to his own requirements, accurately points out that “… there is an important difference between the way in which he does it, and the way in which some self-consciously funky pianists, manage to turn everything they touch into a piece of church music ….” The present album again provides examples of this notable quality:
Fats Waller’s unique Jitterbug Waltz was originally performed at the organ by its composer. Since then, it has been played by such different artists as Art Tatum and Sonny Rollins; Mance’s version is completely his own, yet he manages to convey the light, piquant quality that Waller had in mind when he conceived the tune. Subtlety of rhythmic feeling and touch is deftly demonstrated on the Chano Pozo – Gil Fleer Tin Tin Deo, the Afro-Latin jazz classic that Gillespie helped so much to popularize.
On his first two Jazzland LPs, Junior established a personal pattern of adapting items associated with big bands of the past, with numbers like Main Stem (Ellington) and 9:20 Special (Basie). This time the tradition is carried on by Sy Oliver’s For Dancers Only, which was a specialty of the Jimmie Lunceford band in the ‘30s. This version is practically guaranteed to turn you into a dancer, either on your feet or in your seat.
The work of the entire trio is superb throughout. Their unity here gives the impression of their having worked together for years. Listen to the sound they get as they achieve the swing of Taggie’s Tune, which is another addition to the already-long list of compellingly rhythmic Mance originals. Ron Carter is light but authoritative, while Mickey Roker’s work is an integrated entity rather than a mere series of strokes. Ron has a finely intoned solo on Azure Te, the only ballad-tempo number here; and both men work out effectively on Out South, the third of Junior’s new tunes.
Perhaps the key to the overall impact of Mance’s performance can be found in the substance and title of the closing number, Clark Terry’s Simple Waltz. The most positive definition of the word “simple” (meaning such things as “not ornate”, “without deceit”, “without affectation”) may provide the answer. Certainly this quality is one reason why, whenever Junior Mance is to be heard playing, for whomever it may concern – A&R. man or recording engineer, night club audience or proprietor, writer of linernotes or record buyer – it is, purely and simply, the happy time.
Junior other Jazzland albums include –
The Soulful Piano of Junior Mance (JLP30; Stereo 930)
The Junior Mance Trio at The Village Vanguard (JLP 41; Stereo 941)
Big Chief (JLP 53; Stereo 953)
The Soul of Hollywood; piano and orchestra of Junior Mance (JLP 63; Stereo 963)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER (recorded at Plaza Sound Studios; New York City)
Album design by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 977) and Monaural (JLP 77) form.
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York