Hot Lips Page


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Always to be found smack in the middle of the hottest developments in jazz, Oran Thaddeus "Hot Lips" Page worked comfortably with both old-fashioned and modern young musicians during the mid-'40s. On November 30, 1944, Page's band included busy-fingered tenor man Lucky Thompson and a brilliant young pianist from Pontiac, MI, named Hank Jones. One week later, Page cut a couple of sides for V-Discs with an ensemble that sounded a lot like one of Eddie Condon's Town Hall traditional jam bands. "Sheik of Araby" is notable for Gordon "Specs" Powell's exceptional drumming. Page seems not to have recorded again until September 1945, once again in the company of younger guys with progressive ideas. "Happy Medium" and "Bloodhound" are full of modern moves. How interesting to hear Hank Jones as a young innovator. Saxophonists Dave Matthews and Earle Warren demonstrate how the art of swing stood at the crossroads of modernity in 1945. Contrary to what the discography says, there are no vocals on these two tracks. Dave Matthews sounds like Chu Berry and Don Byas. He shushes down to Ben Webster's level of suavity on "You Come In Here Woman," a misogynistic blues containing the line "Like the butcher told the goat, you've had your fun, now I'm cuttin' your throat." Just in case we don't get the picture, Lips puts his horn to his lips and quotes Chopin's funeral march for a nasty coda. Leonard Feather's "The Lady in Debt," a distant relative of "The Lady in Red," is also apparently a cousin to Page's 1944 enigma, "The Lady in Bed," which was yet another creation of Feather, who seems to have enjoyed writing topical blues novelties for Page. More material from September of 1945 places Page at the front of a larger band, fortified with Buck Clayton, three outstanding trombonists (Benny Morton, Sandy Williams, and J.C. Higginbotham), and three of the toughest saxophonists on the scene at that time (Don Byas, Ben Webster, and Earl Bostic). "Corsicana" cooks itself to a gravy. "They Raided the Joint" is funny if you like songs about alcohol poisoning and police raids. This CD's hottest sides from 1946 are without question "Kansas City Jive" and the rockin' "Birmingham Boogie," featuring Earl Bostic and a solid tenor player by the name of John Hartzfield. "Open the Door Richard" is very funny, beginning with Page's imitation of a drunken person being forcibly ejected from a party. The scenario eventually develops into a rowdy group vocal as Page's band eggs him on into a violent trumpet solo. In a premonition of later developments, Hot Lips distorts his voice into a higher-pitched version of what would eventually become a sandblasted contrabasso, lower than that of Louis Armstrong, closer in fact to Popeye's tonalities. By the early '50s, Hot Lips Page's voice could curdle milk and frighten pigeons.

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