JJ 05/71: Junior Mance – With A Lotta Help From My Friends

Fifty years ago, Barry McRae liked the Chicago pianist's new record, even if it made concessions to the blues. First published in Jazz Journal May 1971


Musical discussions with Chicago’s moder­nists usually reveal the extent of the inter­action between jazz and blues in that city. Because of this, it is no real surprise to find a strongly blues-orientated player like Mance moving over more completely than ever be­fore.

Most readers will associate Mance and Cobham with more sophisticated music but both play well in this context. The pianist gets down to the bare bones of his style, opting for the simple phrase and using rudimentary riff figures to good effect. Surprisingly, he is at times nearer to a primitive like Champion Jack than to Memphis Slim, and Cobham is forced to respond accordingly. There are other moments when some blues purists might consider Cobham too elaborate, although there is always the firm anchor of Rainey’s bass to dispel their fears.

Outstanding tracks are strangely enough the three titles that were written by group members, including the powerhouse and well-named Home Groovin’.

So often critics are forced to con­clude that an album falls between two stools. In this case, it is not so and I feel that Mance has made the personal adjustments to make this record acceptable to both the jazz and the blues faction. It seems unlikely that Mance will remain in this field, because he has the ability to set himself more demanding stand­ards. Nevertheless, it is a good album which might cause a few blushes in the Blindfold tests that rhythm clubs devise to embarrass the experts.

Thank You Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Agin; Never Say Naw; Don’t Rush Us (13½ min) – Well I’ll Be White Black; Home Groovin’; Spinning Wheel; Don’t Cha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya (17¾ min)
Junior Mance (pno); Eric Gale (gtr); Chuck Rainey (bs); Billy Cobham (dm).
(Atlantic 2400 028 £2.15)