Friends and family will gather at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10, at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge Ave., to celebrate the life of the late jazz pianist Junior Mance, who grew up in Evanston. He died in New York on Jan. 17 at the age of 92.
Music will be a major part of the celebration, provided by Marc Devine on piano, Michi Fuji on violin, Hidé Tanaka on bass and Fuku Tainaka on drums.
The public is invited to attend but because seating is limited, attendees are asked to call or text Sandra Robinson at 847-471-1041 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org reserve a seat.
Jullian (Junior) Clifford Mance, Jr. was born Oct. 10, 1928, at Research Hospital in Chicago, known today as the University of Illinois Rush Hospital. Although his parents lived in Evanston on the north end of the 5th Ward, Evanston Hospital did not then serve people of color.
Mance began his love for music by listening to his father play stride piano, by listening to the radio each weekend as big bands were broadcast and enjoying music on the juke box when his parents had rent parties. As a young boy he entertained guests at his parents’ house parties and at the age of 10 was playing piano at house parties on the North Shore. He played his first true gig as a substitute pianist at a road house. His father slept in the car while the young man played and learned chorus changes on the bandstand.
Mance played with numerous jazz greats during his career, including Gene Ammons, Lester Young, Dinah Washington, Joe Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley (who he met in the army) and many others. During his career he performed in Japan, Austria, France, Germany, Israel and other locations. He was a member of 100 Gold Fingers, a jazz band made up of 10 pianists that performed throughout Japan.
In 1998, Mance was named Distinguished Alumni at Evanston Township High School. In January 2013, he played a “reunion concert” at the Unitarian Church of Evanston to more than 300 fans, congregants and neighborhood friends. In attendance were many of Junior’s classmates from kindergarten and grade school in Evanston, including his dear friend then-Mayor Lorraine Morton and his childhood friend, Byron Wilson.
In 2015, Mance was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Jazz Institute in New York City, where he performed to an enthusiastic crowd of fans and friends.