Junior Mance, the jazz pianist and educator who played with Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, Dinah Washington, and countless greats, has died, the Washington Post and the New York Times report. Mance died on January 17th at his Manhattan home. His wife, Gloria Clayborne Mance, told the Times that he had a brain haemorrhage last month caused by a fall. He was 92 years old and had lived with Alzheimer’s.
Mance’s career spanned seven decades, recording dozens of studio albums. He learned the piano as a child and played the blues professionally by the age of 10. He became the pianist for Chicago saxophonist Gene Ammons in his late teenage years, but Mance’s career really began after a chance encounter during his military service.
Mance was drafted into the army in 1951. One night while stationed at the Fort Knox, Kentucky base, Mance was listening to live music from the service club. The band that played at the club included Cannonball Adderly on saxophone. Fascinated, Mance asked if he could sit at the piano. Mance impressed Adderley with his performance, and the following day the saxophonist helped arrange a transfer for Mance, who would leave his fellow infantrymen to play in Adderley’s traveling army band.
Mance spent his post-army years in the house band of Beehive in Chicago, pianist for Dinah Washington for two years and joined Dizzy Gillespie’s group. In addition to performing with the aforementioned legends, Mance also played with Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, and many others.
Mance was both an educator and a renowned musician. From the late 1980s to 2011 he taught in the BFA jazz program at The New School in New York. In 1967 he published a book called How to Play Blues Piano. In 2015, Mance released his last studio album, For My Fans, It’s All About You. He retired the following year.