1937-1949 (The Alternative Takes in Chronological Order)
Hot Lips Page
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If Oran Thaddeus "Hot Lips" Page had chosen someone besides Joe Glaser to be his manager, maybe Lips wouldn't have found himself regularly stashed on the back burner. This was probably done to keep Lips from upstaging Glaser's main Afro-American trumpet-and-vocal act, Louis Armstrong. That's how Dan Morgenstern explained the perpetual setbacks Page grappled with throughout much of his difficult career. He did make a lot of records, and most of them are solid. This particular volume of Alternate Takes also contains rarities which are not "alternates" but one-of-a-kind treasures. Exhibit A is the "Blues in B Flat," a duet with Fats Waller recorded at Carnegie Hall in January of 1942. Previously issued in 1980 on The Fats Waller Story, Radiola's pastiche of rare broadcasts and live performances, this was apparently the only portion of the concert to be recorded for posterity. Maybe that's a good thing, as Waller's alcohol consumption is said to have sabotaged his playing throughout the rest of that night. Page causes his audience to bust out laughing when he sings a humorous lyric which Eric Clapton was to use about 25 years later (opening "Outside Woman Blues" from Cream's Disraeli Gears). And speaking of rock & roll, there's definitely some primal rhythm & blues energy in a 1939 bounce called "Jump for Joy" (not to be confused with Duke Ellington's socially optimistic opus of 1941), by Pete Johnson & his Boogie Woogie Boys. In addition to the feisty singing of Joe Turner, this track features legendary Kansas City alto saxophonist Henry "Buster" Smith. Aside from a rare pair of swing sides from 1937 demonstrating Page's invigorating impact upon the otherwise slightly less than wonderful Barney Rapp Orchestra, all the rest of the bands are led by Page himself. The 1944 sessions feature some of the day's very best saxophonists; Lem Johnson and Lucky Thompson deliver quite a punch on "Rockin' at Ryans." Appearing alongside Earl Bostic, Don Byas, Ben Webster, and Ike Quebec, it's not surprising that Floyd "Horsecollar" Williams is as virtually indistinguishable from the pack as he is on the master takes. Page always sounded completely solid no matter what else was going on. His trumpet was formidable, his vocals gutsy and down to earth. For another example of this man's influence upon rock musicians of the 1960s, see Jorma Kaukonen's 1969 Woodstock Festival performance of "Uncle Sam's Blues." After a startlingly brief breakdown from a V-Disc session (which begs in vain to be followed by the complete take), a 1945 jam called "Bloodhound (Catlett-cysm)" features a ballsy tenor saxophonist by the name of Dave Matthews. "Got an Uncle in Harlem" is a delight, although the collective sense of timing on the issued version is closer to absolute perfection. All of Page's duets with Pearl Bailey are irresistible. This newly uncovered recording of "The Hucklebuck" (a pop song stolen from Charlie Parker) captures Pearl's wonderful patter even if most of Page's howls of delight are under-recorded. Which is precisely why they cut another take.
Born: 27 January 1908 in Dallas, TX
Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s