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 in his Manhattan home on January 17. His wife Gloria Clayborne Mance told the Times that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage caused by a fall last month. He was 92 years old, and had been living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Mance’s career spanned over seven decades, during which he recorded dozens of studio albums. He picked up piano as a child, and was playing the blues professionally by age 10. In his late teens he became the pianist for Chicago saxophonist Gene Ammons, but Mance’s career really took off after a fortuitous encounter during his service in the military.
Mance was drafted into the Army in 1951. One night while stationed at the base in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Mance heard live music coming from the service club. The band playing at the club included Cannonball Adderly on saxophone. Intrigued, Mance asked if he could sit in on 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 playing in the house band at the Beehive in Chicago, working as Dinah Washington’s pianist for two years, and joining Dizzy Gillespie’s group. In addition to performing with the aforementioned legends, Mance played with Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, and many others.
Mance was an educator as well as a renowned musician; he taught in the B.F.A. jazz program at New York City’s The New School from the late 1980s until 2011. In 1967, he published a book titled How to Play Blues Piano. In 2015, Mance released his final studio album For My Fans, It’s All About You. He retired the following year.