Andrew Liddle, Guest Writer
Jazz Album: Hot Lips Page: A Retrospective Perspective
If your taste in popular music is Jazz, Blues, Swing, Country or, more broadly, what these days gets called Nostalgia thenthe Retrospective label, brought out by Nimbus Records,might well be for you.
Out on the 1st of June is a fine budget-priced 2-cd collection of 48 of the best of the legendary jazz trumpeter Hot Lips Page. Born in Dallas, Texas, in 1908, he began his career playing hot jazz while still in his teens in the early circuses and minstrel shows,where he backedseveral of the earlyfemale blues singers, not least Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Ida Cox.
Some seven years younger than Louis Armstrong and clearly influenced by him, he joined the Blue Devils around 1927, and stayed with them until early 1931, when he joined Bennie Moten’s Orchestra, inKansas City.
One of the great tragedies of early Jazz was Moten’s sudden death in 1935, which led indirectly to Hot Lips moving New York City the following year. It’s propitious that he did because inevitably he became part of what would later be known as the Harlem Renaissance. More than just the spontaneous outpouring of Jazz and Swing music, it was nothing less than a wholesale revival, recognition and celebration of African-American culture, dance, art, fashion, literature and theatre.
Hot Lips thrived in the Big Apple, led his own bands and recorded with a dozen others.He appeared with Bud Freeman's Orchestra in 1938, and was a featured vocalist and soloist with Artie Shaw's Symphonic Swing Orchestra in 1941 and 1942.
In the period 1929 to1953, he cut over 200 tracks for some of the most prestigious jazz labels, such as Bluebird, Vocalion, Decca and Harmony Records. This splendid collection allows the listener, in one harmonious compendium, to get a feeling for the sheer diversity of Hot Lips’ playing swing and blues (in the company of the immortal Billie Holiday), riffing in the boogie-woogie bands of Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons and blowing cool in the company of Ben Webster and Chu Berry. He was part of the Mezz Mezzrow-Sidney Bechet Septet in 1945 and the cd features two of the priceless recordings.
Hot Lips also has the distinction of being one of the few jazzmen with a connection to the earliest manifestations of Rock’n’Roll. His band was behind Wynonie Harris on his sensational hit of 1947 Good Rocking Tonight,
recorded more thana year earlier, by the way, than Fats Domino’s The Fatman, which is often thought the first of the genre as it emerged out of Rhythm’n’Blues.
Hot Lips, as this collection demonstrates, was one of the most adaptable of trumpeters. Famous for the ferocity of his playing, he could blow tenderly when the mood was on him. He died in New York, in November 1954, aged 46, far too early but not before he had become a legend in the jazz world.
Andrew Liddle, a noted authority on early Jazz and Blues, writes and reviews for Just Jazz and Jazz Rag.