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Junior Mance: The Floating Jazz Festival Trio, 1998

This was recorded aboard the S/S Norway’s 1955 Floating Jazz Festival. It is a kind of sequel to Blue Mance (CRD-331), which celebrated the triumph of Junior Mance, Keter Betts and Jackie Williams on a well-chosen program consists of three originals (one each by Mance, Betts and guest Benny Golson), “Moanin’,” “Georgia,” “Three Little Words,” “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” and Jay McShann’s “Jumping the Blues.” Except for Betts’ three-minute “Keter’s Bullfight” a clever bass showcase, all the performances are long, “Georgia” running over 12 minutes. This gives the musicians plenty of time to improvise at length, and they do so with resolution and invention. Such length sometimes leads to tedium when players runout of ideas and fail to seize the opportunity to think and rethink.

Mance is a formidable bluesman who, as on his own “Dinah’s Blues,” likes to recapture singer and song by implication while dutifully laying down a strong accompaniment. And this unified trio is strong! Mance and Betts worked together for Dinah Washington, which accounts for their close rapport, and Jackie Williams is now almost unique as a swinging, listening drummer. Their beat is firm, basic in the best sense, as good for dancers as for listeners.

Benny Golson sits in on tenor for “Three Little Words” and his own “Blues Alley,” bebopping adroitly as the trio adjusts appropriately. Mance is at his dramatic best on the subsequent “Georgia;” his dynamics and spacing enhance a melancholy tale that draws much audience applause. So does Betts’ bullfight before they exit, swinging hard, on McShann’s blues.

Originally Published