VOICES Notes and news on Jazz releases
19 FEB 10 CHRIS SLAWECKI
The essential relationship between jazz and blues seems so well understood that it's not discussed much. Junior Mance explored this relationship not through words but through his piano, when he led his trio through Junior's Blues (OJC). You don't need to be a Mance fan, just a fan of fine and powerful blues-based piano, to enjoy his impeccable program: Three of Junior's own blues swingers as mileposts in a survey that encompasses historic piano styles from stride to bop.
Everything he plays explores the importance of rhythm across jazz and blues, profoundly connecting the bedrock of them both. (Bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Mickey Roker surely help, too.)
Mance rocks "Yancey Special" hard. His left hand lays down the foundation to Meade "Lux" Lewis' tribute to boogie-woogie pianist Jimmy Yancey, while his right hand tears the house down. But Duke Ellington's "Creole Love Call" rides a beautiful and soulful rhythm and he bounces through Leroy Carr's "In the Evening" like a tomcat on the prowl. Mance's portrait of Thelonious' deliciously inscrutable "Blue Monk" is simply brilliant, as he pats out the rhythmic gaps, smoothing the rhythm down into the loping style of James P. Johnson and other stride pianists to whom Monk professed devotion.
Mance plays the blues on several other Concord titles, including a 1961 trio performance At The Village Vanguard (OJC) and Sweet And Lovely (Milestone), a reissue that pairs a live trio recording with one from the studio.
Thelonious Monk Trio, from The Thelonious ...