Bobby Timmons, Gene Harris, Junior Mance - these men comprise the Holy Trinity of soul/blues jazz pianists. All three have a complete command of the blues, along with gospel, which makes up the subatomic particles of soul jazz piano. Why is Horace Silver not here? Because he is one of the founding fathers of hard bop, and we have to draw the line somewhere. The three pianists above were making music late ?50s-?60s that corresponded to the popular music soul craze coming out of Motown and Muscle Shoals Alabama. They also share in common a means of playing that is more closely comparable to organ soul jazz of Jimmy Smith and Richard Groove Holmes, that is, heavily blues and gospel-based selections, as well as standards infused with the same.
Sweet and Lovely
is a Fantasy twofer consisting of Mance's early '60s Jazzland recordings The Soulful Piano of Junior Mance
(Jazzland 930) and Big Chief
(Jazzland 953). Each original recording was collected at its own session ( The Soulful Piano
on October 25, 1960; Big Chief
on August 1, 1961). Because of time constraints, "The Seasons," originally released on Big Chief
, is omitted from the current collection. No matter. Sweet and Lovely
illustrates plainly how Mance integrated the organic funk of Timmons with the perfect accessibility of Harris. Both Mance and Harris, indeed, have a similar approach toward "Summertime," each providing their personal vision of barrelhouse piano playing, light years away from the piece's ballad roots. Mance funks out on "The Uptown" and Milt Jackson's "Ralph's New Blues." In fact, I will not accuse Mance of being a ballads player, though he is a capable balladeer. No, Junior Mance's long coat is the blues, and that is in abundant supply on Sweet and Lovely
Personnel: Junior Mance: piano; Ben Tucker: bass; Jimmy Rowser: bass; Bobby Thomas: drums; Paul Gusman: drums.