Hot Lips Page: Feelin’ High And Happy

The work of the skilful, ebullient but often unjustly overlooked and commercially unfortunate trumpeter is exemplified in 48 tracks, 1929-43

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Retrospective continues, commendably, to remind us of the often outstanding artistry of jazz musicians from the past, whose recorded legacy has tended to become sidelined and overlooked. Trumpeters Johnny Windhurst, Charlie Teagarden, Bill Coleman, Dick Cathcart and Frankie Newton have recently stepped out of the shadows in commemorative compilations, followed here by an excellent double-CD tribute to Hot Lips Page.

Page’s friend and admirer Roy Eldridge called him “the most underrated trumpeter in jazz”, while Dizzy Gillespie declared that “when it came to the blues, nobody could mess with Lips”. (In the 1920s Page had toured with the greatest blues divas, such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Ida Cox. Instrumentally, and vocally, the blues would become his forte.)

Spanning 1929-1953 (Page died in 1954, aged only 46), the 48 well-chosen tracks in chronological order (after the title track), many with stellar accompaniment, contain ample evidence for these high opinions, which were shared by Louis Armstrong, a prime inspiration for Page’s exuberant and expressive style.

Lips (as he was affectionately known) blew hard, with powerful panache. His fully developed technique incorporated hot, cup-muted growls and energetic upward glissandi. He could punch out phrases with Armstrong-like authority and also shriek joyously in the stratosphere, much like Eldridge. Page also had an appealing stage persona, and could sing authentic traditional blues, and jaunty, Louis Jordan-ish R&B.

In 1936 Joe Glaser, Armstrong’s tough manager, took Lips away from Basie and signed him on a long-term contract, possibly as a reserve stand-in for Louis, currently with lip problems. But Louis recovered, and Glaser did little to further Page’s career. Despite prolific recordings, in very good company, upward and lasting commercial success eluded him.

His luck seemed to have changed in 1941, when he joined Artie Shaw and featured on hit recordings of Blues In The Night and St James Infirmary, sounding magnificent on the latter. However, the ever-restless Shaw then disbanded to join the navy, so the beckoning stardom for Lips faded.

The pattern was repeated in 1949, when his wonderful ad-libbing in vocal duet with Pearl Bailey, in the ironically titled Baby, It’s Cold Outside, helped make it a huge hit. However, while it galvanised Pearl’s career, it left Page behind on the sidelines. His career picked up thereafter with tours of Europe, and on the closing 1953 track with Marion McPartland, The Sheik Of Araby, he’s still irrepressibly blowing up a storm.

Packed with interest and memorable contributions from a huge cast of distinguished accompanying personnel, this selection of hot and happily swinging jazz from the golden years will brighten the greyest of days. A top buy.

Discography
CD1: (1) Feeling High And Happy; (2) Blue Devil Blues; (3) Moten Swing; (4) Limehouse Blues; (1) He’s Pulling His Whiskers; I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart; Skull Duggery; Small Fry; (5) Blues With Lips; (6) Long Gone Blues; (7) Jump For Joy; (1) I Would Do Anything For You; Gone With The Gin; Walk It To Me; Lafayette; Harlem Rhumbain’ The Blues; (8) Just Another Woman; Do It If You Wanna; Evil Man’s Blues; (9) Blowin’ Up A Breeze; (10) Blues In The Night; St James Infirmary Blues; (11) Woke Up Clipped; Teezol; (12) The Breaks (78.46)
CD2: (12) Jammin’ The Boogie; (1) Rockin’ At Ryans; The Blues Jumped The Rabbit; (13) Uncle Sam Blues; (14) Dance Of The Tambourine; Pagin’ Mr. Page; (1) Good For Stompin’; Blooey; You Need Coachin’; (15) Miss Martingale; The Sheik Of Araby; (16) House Party; Perdido Street Stomp; (1) Corsicana; They Raided The Joint; Kansas City Jive; (17) Page Mister Trumpet; (1) Take Your Shoes Off, Baby; La Danse; Good Rockin’ Tonight; I Got An Uncle In Harlem; (18) Baby, It’s Cold Outside; (19) The Sheik Of Araby (78.51)
HLP (t, v, mel) on all tracks with extensive personnel, including; Ben Webster, Count Basie, Chu Berry, Billie Holiday, Pete Johnson, Don Byas, Teddy Bunn, Artie Shaw, Albert Ammons, Vic Dickenson, Sid Catlett, Earl Bostic, Bobby Hackett, Eddie Condon, Sidney Bechet, Buck Clayton, Pearl Bailey and Marian McPartland. Misc. dates and locations (mainly NY), 1929-1953. The booklet contains full discographic details and detailed, informative notes by Digby Fairweather.
(1) HLP and his Orch/Band. Misc. dates and personnel 1938-1949. (2) Walter Page and his Original Blue Devils with Jimmy Rushing (v). 10 November 1929. (3) Bennie Moten and his Kansas City Orch. 13 December 1932. (4) Chu Berry and his Stompy Stevedores. 23 March 1937. (5) Count Basie Orch. Carnegie Hall Concert. 23 December 1938. (6) Billie Holiday Orch. 21 March 1939. (7) Pete Johnson and his Boogie Woogie Boys with Joe Turner (v). 30 June 1939. (8) HLP and his Trio. Teddy Bunn (g, v); Ernest Hill (b). 10 December 1940. (9) Chu Berry and his Jazz Ensemble. 28 August 1941. (10) Artie Shaw and his Orchestra. 2 September and 12 November 1941. (11) Ben Webster and his Quintet. 8 February 1944. (12) Albert Ammons and his Rhythm Kings. 12 February 1944. (13) Eddie Concon and his All Stars. Town Hall Concert 11 March 1944. (14) HLP and his Swing Seven. 14 June 1944. (15) V-Disc All Stars. 6 December 1944. (16) Mezzrow-Bechet Septet. 30 July 1945. (17) Pete Johnson and his Housewarmin’. 31 January 1946. (18) Raymond Tunia and his Quartet, with Pearl Bailey (v). 23 June 1949. (19)) Marian McPartland and her Trio. 27 May 1953.
Retrospective RTS 4398