Junior Mance's work was impressively consistent in the '90s. The veteran pianist didn't do anything groundbreaking, but he excelled by sticking with the hard bop/soul-jazz approach that he had long since perfected. Mance had recently turned 70 when this CD was recorded aboard the SS Norway cruise ship in different parts of the Caribbean Sea in November 1998, and the Chicago native was still very much on top of his game. Mance's Floating Jazz Festival Trio (which also includes bassist Keter Betts and drummer Jackie Williams) has three distinguished guests on this CD: alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, and singer Etta Jones (not to be confused with Etta James). The trio becomes a quintet when Donaldson (who had just turned 72) and Sandoval are featured on the Charlie Parker standards "Now's the Time" and "Confirmation," both of which are appropriate choices because Bird is Donaldson's primary influence. However, Donaldson is a first-class improviser in his own right; like Phil Woods, Sonny Criss, Sonny Stitt, and Frank Morgan, he realizes that being Bird-minded doesn't mean that you have to be a Bird clone. Meanwhile, Jones (who died in 2001) has enjoyable spots on "Falling in Love With Love" and "I Got a New Daddy." The rest of the tracks are trio performances, and Mance's Floating Jazz Festival Trio takes care of business on great but overdone standards like "What Is This Thing Called Love" and "When I Fall in Love." One can complain about the fact that Mance picks so many warhorses, but even so, this CD paints an attractive picture of the pianist at 70.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson