Junior Mance: Junior Mance & the Floating Jazz Festival Trio

Recorded in 1997 aboard the S/S Norway, this album reunites pianist Mance with bassist Keter Betts and drummer Jackie Williams, with guests Henry Johnston (guitar) and Red Holloway (alto saxophone) on one track each. Mance’s bluesy, swinging, on-top-of-the-beat style, Betts’ hefty tone and stepping beat, and Williams’ graceful, Fred Astaire-like moves are a delightful ensemble combination (as also exhibited by the trio’s two previous shipboard recordings on Chiaroscuro).

The trio begins with a fast “Falling in Love With Love,” the groove falling in place instantly and naturally after Mance’s solo rubato intro. At the other tempo extreme, on “Junior’s G Blues,” the group lays back and builds via the pianist’s gospelish declarative phrases and tremolos to a climactic, Wes Montgomery-tinged, bent-note solo by Johnson. Holloway’s feature is “What’s New,” which the bluesy saxophonist delivers laced with fleet, Bird-like embellishments. The other tunes are “Lover Man,” “Oh, Lady Be Good,” “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” a Betts-Williams duet called “Us,” and Ray Bryant’s “I Don’t Care.” Book me a room on the next cruise.