To the chagrin of certainly many a musician, there are some critics who equate audience appeal with commercial sell-out. It is just such an attitude that must have played a part in establishing pianist Junior Mance's position on the jazz map just at the outskirts of critical acclaim, despite wholehearted acceptance by those with a talented ear for real music. Throughout the '50s and '60s, Mance went quietly about his way making noteworthy recordings for the Verve, Capitol, and Atlantic labels that were released without fanfare and possibly ended up in the cut-out bins within weeks of release.
It is the six albums that Mance made for Riverside and Jazzland that are his most valuable works and ever so slowly Fantasy has been reissuing these forgotten classics, with Happy Time the latest to reappear. It's arguably the finest of the lot as well, owing to the eminent trio he's assembled (Ron Carter and Mickey Roker) and a sagacious mix of finger-snapping tunes. Wasting no time getting to the point, a talent of Mance's to be sure, the title cut takes no prisoners with it's speedy tempo and the pianist turns the blues licks out with a passion that can't help but upturn the ears of even the harshest critic.
The emotionally-direct bluesiness in Mance's playing can take on many hues but nowhere quite as delectable as on his own "Out South," which also features in- the-pocket support from Roker and a lowdown solo from Carter. For range of moods, don't miss the palatable use of dynamics and stop-time passages in "For Dancers Only," or the bell-like tone Mance uses to deliver a sage ballad presentation of "Azure Te." All-in-all, Mance and company deliver up a set that deserves more recognition among the pantheon of classic piano trio performances.
Track Listing: Happy Time/ Jitterbug Waltz/ Out South/ Tin Tin Deo/ For Dancers Only/ Taggie