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HomeNewsArchivesMANCE JAZZ TRIO READY TO PLAY, IF LENNY ALLOWS

MANCE JAZZ TRIO READY TO PLAY, IF LENNY ALLOWS

The Junior Mance Trio flew into St. Thomas on schedule Monday — and the jazz artists say rain (even with a little wind) won't stop the concerts on St. Thomas and St. John. But those with tickets, or desirous of getting them, should call Tuesday just to be sure.
The trio is scheduled to open the non-classical season in Tillett Gardens on Wednesday at 8 p.m. and perform at the St. John School of the Arts on Thursday at the same hour.
Pianist and band leader Julian Clifford "Junior" Mance says he "heard bits and pieces" about Hurricane Lenny in New York Sunday night but had no hesitation about getting on the plane for St. Thomas Monday morning.
While he has not been through a hurricane ("by the time they get to New York, they're just rainstorms") he's experienced some pretty bad blizzards in Chicago and "I think I would be more afraid of earthquakes." Whatever may be in store, "I just don't worry any more," he says. "You just hope. That's all you can do."
Mance and his sidemen, Keter Betts on upright bass and Jackie Williams on drums, have been performing on cruise ships in the '90s as the Floating Jazz Festival Trio. For the last three years, they played aboard the Norway on cruises that called at St. Thomas. This year, the promoter moved the festival to the Queen Elizabeth II, with an itinerary outside the Caribbean that included the Canary Islands and Madeira and ended in Southampton, England just a couple of weeks ago.
It's been quite a few years since he vacationed with friends on St. Thomas, Mance says, and his first impression traveling from the airport to his hotel Monday was that "there's lots more traffic."
The Wednesday and Thursday concerts "are on for now," Arts Alive producer Rhoda Tillett says. "The musicians are here, and they are ready to play. Everything depends on Lenny, and if we have a change of plans, we'll let people know through the media."
The trio will play "mostly the things we record," Mance says. That would be such standards as "Lover Man," "Falling in Love with Love," "Oh Lady Be Good" "What's New" and "I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good," along with "Junior's G Blues."
"We'll go with what the audience likes," he says. "You can tell that pretty much from the first number."
Highly regarded as a blues as well as jazz artist, Mance has taught both for more than a decade at New York's New School University. But he sees the differentiation as little but semantics: "I don't go much for Madison Avenue-type titles. Blues, bebop, traditional, swing, Dixieland, it's all jazz."
He adds, "I think this is all good. The music reaches a lot of people instead of just one group. So much of the music now like rap and hip-hop seems to reach just one type of audience."
In the course of casual conversation, Mance invokes the wisdom of two other jazz legends: "Jerry Mulligan once said he didn't believe jazz was for the masses." And, "as Duke Ellington once said, there are only two types of music in this world, good and bad."
Mance's collaborations over five decades read like a Who's Who of the good: Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Stitt, Max Roach, Clark Terry, Maynard Ferguson, Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Joe Williams, Sonny "Lockjaw" Davis. . .
On the liner notes of the trio's 1997 Floating Jazz Festival CD, Peter Straub writes of Mance's piano artistry, "Everything glitters, and his touch is diamond-clear."
Born in 1928 and inducted two years ago into the International Jazz Hall of Fame, Mance says his plans for retirement are "none. I love what I'm doing." That doesn't mean 40 weeks a year on the road like he put in with Joe Williams and Dizzy Gillespie half a century ago, but he still spends "maybe five or six weeks a year in Japan, two to three in Europe and more around New York, mostly with the trio."
While jazz fans tend to be "a little older" as the years go by, he notes that at the New School there are young people studying toward careers in the genre from all over the world. For the floating jazz fests, he adds, the older audience is a function of economics as much as age: "It costs a lot to go on those cruises!"
For the St. Thomas and St. John concerts, the cost is $25 (with $15 tickets for students on St. John). An optional pre-performance dinner in Tillett Gardens is another $30 plus bar service and gratuity. To make reservations and confirm concert plans, call 775-1929 for Tillett Gardens and 779-4322 or 776-6777 for the St. John School of the Arts.

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