Sunset and the Mockingbird — a film about Junior Mance

April 13th, 2017

Junior Mance

 

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In a career spanning 70 years, the pianist Junior Mance played with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley, Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, appearing on over 100 record albums in the process.  In addition to his career as a recording artist, he taught for 23 years at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, counting Brad Mehldau and Larry Goldings among his students before retiring in 2011.

Then, in 2012, according to Sarit Work, co-producer of a documentary in the works on Mance and wife Gloria, “Junior had a stroke which led to the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia. Though his musical abilities were untouched, his gradual mental and physical decline has forced Gloria’s role as manager, wife and soulmate to take on a whole new meaning.”

The story of Mance and Gloria’s role to “wind down Junior’s legendary career as he loses his identity — while still, somehow, maintaining her own” has inspired Ms. Work and her partners to create a film, Sunset and the Mockingbird, that celebrates Mance, but “also the love between Gloria and Junior, and of Gloria’s strength in keeping everything going, including herself.”

“When we began shooting two years ago,” Ms. Work writes, “even as Junior’s mind was slowly slipping away, he still performed every week and his musical ability remained sharp. He has since incrementally declined, and the film bears witness to how Gloria has adapted to these changes, in ways both heartbreaking and humorous. We see the hard decisions she must make, her coping mechanisms, and how she and Junior relate and survive the profound loss they are both experiencing in their own ways.”

“This is a film about dementia but is not a ‘dementia movie.”  Ms. Work sees this as a love story, “pure and complicated.  It focuses on an African American couple, but this is not a film explicitly about race, which is far too often a prerequisite for people of color being shown onscreen.”  It also “celebrates jazz, but it isn’t a ‘jazz film.’”

The filmmaking team have just launched a Kickstarter program in order to raise funding “to bring on an editor to help us tell this important story.”

View the film’s trailer and you will find a story told with compassion, and by people who know how to make a movie. 

Click here to view the trailer, and to get more information about the project.

 

 

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Junior Mance plays piano on “Umbrella Man,” featuring Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong

 

Junior Mance and Ray Bryant play “Blue Monk”

 

 

 

 

 

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In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

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"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Poetry

"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

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