When it comes to playing soulful jazz, few are in the same league as pianist Junior Mance (b. 1928), a master not only of blues but bebop.
Born in Chicago, Mance began playing piano when he was ten. He spent his early years working in Chicago with Gene Ammons (1947-1949). Mance performed with Lester Young and the Gene Ammons–Sonny Stitt Quintet before he was drafted. After his discharge he was the house pianist at the Bee Hive in Chicago, worked for a year with Dinah Washington, was a member of the first Cannonball Adderley Quintet, during 1958-60 was in Dizzy Gillespie’s group, and spent a few months with the Eddie "Lockjaw” Davis–Johnny Griffin quintet.
After leaving the Davis-Griffin band, Mance was mostly a leader of his own trios (other than a period working as Joe Williams’s accompanist). Sweet and Lovely reissues both The Soulful Piano of Junior Mance and Big Chief, a pair of trio dates from 1960-1961 that feature an appealing mixture of blues, hard bop, and ballads. On At the Village Vanguard, Mance gives Oscar Peterson a run for his money on "Looptown” and is boppish on "Girl of My Dreams.” Junior Blues (which ranges from "Yancey Special” and "Creole Love Call” to "Gravy Waltz”) and Happy Time (more standards-oriented) are both from 1962 and further examples of Mance’s versatility in a trio setting.
Junior Mance, who has also taught jazz and blues piano, has played in a timeless style for decades.