Julian "Junior" Mance, a highly respected pianist and educator who was born and raised in Evanston, passed away in New York on January 17. He was 92.
His death was announced by his wife of 22 years, the former Gloria Clayborne, in a January 17 Facebook post. Mance had been afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease for the last several years.
I'd always known of Junior Mance because my husband is a huge Jazz fan. But it was only about four years ago that I learned about his Evanston roots, when I interviewed lifelong Evanston resident and civil rights leader Bennett Johnson. You can read that interview here.
And last year, when Evanston resident and retired Evanston/Skokie School District 65 teacher Catherine "Kitty" Johnson participated in DE's Uncomfortable Journey to Montgomery, I learned that Junior Mance was her cousin and that his father, Julian Mance, who had been a railway porter, had played a major role in helping Kitty's dad Charles escape Georgia for Evanston to avoid possible lynching when Charles was 12 years old. You can read that story here.
"Junior's father use to tell me that he was my grand-mother's favorite brother," Kitty told me yesterday. "They were very close and family-oriented. He would visit her every Sunday after church. I think all the Mance siblings are deceased now. Junior is the last of my grand-mother's sibling kids that I really knew."
Yesterday, I asked Bennett for his reflections and memories of Junior Mance.
"Julian was my best friend Gaylord Mance's cousin," Bennett told me. "We attended Evanston Township High School (ETHS) at the same time. I had a Latin class with Julian and I helped him pass the class. After graduating, he attended the School of Music at Northwestern University.
While he was at ETHS, he began his jazz music career with a local group that included Roy King, Junior McDonald, Ike Brown and others. They played regularly at the Emerson Street YMCA for dances.
Junior Mance played with Gene Ammons and a number of high profile musicians. Julian was one of the early BeBop practitioners.
He did enroll in Roosevelt College and he may have been discouraged from playing jazz. Joe Segal, Gus Savage and I started holding weekly jam sessions beginning in 1948. Many of the local jazz artists and celebrities who were in town would participate.
Julian married the local 'pretty girl,' Beverly Stams, and later moved to New York. He would return from time to time to perform and hold sessions at ETHS. Julian was one of several Evanston musicians to have a successful career. Bobby Cranshaw was a prominent artist who played with Mance from time to time. Julian'ss uncle, Stonewall Jackson Mance, Gaylord's father, was the leader of the Masons who built the Masonic Temple in 1929 at 1229 Emerson Street.
Julian Mance was a very unassuming, pleasant gentleman. He has always been and remains a credit to our community." I'm so grateful to Kitty and Bennett for sharing their reflections and this incredible Evanston history, and I'm so sorry for this enormous personal loss and loss to the music world.
Kitty believes that there may be a memorial service for Junior Mance some time in the future, once the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided. We'll keep you posted.
Read more about Mr. Mance's legacy in the obituary published in JazzTimes.