Pianist Junior Mance has a bop-based facility with improvisation and a bluesy, "no- nonsense" candid style. Mance debuted his career with this unique blend of traits and his singular voice has changed little over the course of his prolific career that spans over half a century. The Delmark reissue of Jubilation
, originally on the, now defunct, Canadian label Sackville, is a live solo recording from September of 1994 in Toronto's Montreal Bistro. On it Mance demonstrates a more crystalized and mature version of his signature sound that has not lost its youthful exuberance.
The material consists of thirteen standards and a single original, the title track. The latter is a bright, incandescent gospel-ish tune that has a definite devotional sense. The thick rolling chords and the intricate ad-lib flourishes mark his subtle, intelligent performance that maintains its spiritual edge.
Elsewhere Mance channels the virtuosity of the Harlem stride masters as on the nostalgic "Just Squeeze Me." His sublime deconstruction of pianist/bandleader Duke Ellington
's composition progresses from melancholic to exuberant, a change of mood that is reflected in Mance's thrilling pianism.
Equally breathtaking is Mance's interpretation of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie
's "Birks Works." On this boppish extemporization Mance, at times, seems like he is two independent yet synergistic players as he lets loose a cascade of percussive beats and resonant notes with electrifying adroitness.
Mance elegantly embellishes the main the theme of George Gershwin
's "Lady Be Good" with expansive chords and lyrical lines. The effervescent piece allows him to showcase his romanticism and his whimsy. Meanwhile his slow simmering take of W.C. Handy
's "St Louis Blues" is dramatic, soulful and simultaneously modern and retro.
Hints of western classical influences pepper Cole Porter
's "What Is This Thing Called Love." Mance creates a mood both passionate and expectant as his spontaneous phrases vary in tempo and flow with gentle melancholy at times and vigorous excitement at others.
A consummate musician and an accomplished artist Mance has not made a weak album. This disc, however, is one of the highlights of his uniformly superlative career. Thanks to Delmark records and its acquisition of the Sackville catalogue this is yet another gem that has been saved from obscurity.
Autumn Leaves; Georgia On My Mind; Jubilation; Just Squeeze Me; The Single Petal of a
Rose; Atlanta Blues; All the Things You Are; Lady Be Good; St. Louis Blues; Birks Works;
Lover Man; What Is This Thing Called Love; Old Folks; Small Fry.