Friday, February 11, 2011

Hot Lips Page Just Roll, Roll, Rolls

This is the second part of my appreciation of Oran “Hot Lips” Page.

Hot Lips Page’s music being so heavily rooted in the blues and Kansas City jazz was able to readily make the transition to jump blues and the post-war rhythm and blues market in the manner of such other swing-based performers as Louis Jordan.His place in post-war blues has been neglected although he was the subject of a memorable story in Whiskey Women and, a late rhythm’n’blues quarterly that many of us still miss. The Spanish El Toro label has issued a compilation of 27 recordings (over 70 minutes of music) for a variety labels, “Roll, Roll, Roll: The R&B Years.”

Hot Lips Page was one of the few who could approach the ebullience and inexhaustible musicianship of Louis Jordan, as Dave Penny observes in his liner notes. The proof is in these recordings from the rousing cover of Julia Lee’s “
Last Call For Alcohol” as Lips lets us now its the last call with a ripping tenor saxophonist before he blasts some high note joy as a hot jitterbug tempo, which he takes out with some hot playing. This was recorded at a paris Concert and later released on King Records. “They Raided The Joint,” was written by Lips and Joe Eldridge based on an earlier Dan Burley song, and the performance for Continental sports a solid big band ensemble behind Lips fine vocal and trumpet.

There Ain’t No Flies On Me,” is a nice mix of jive and swing that was recorded for Columbia,” while he covered Louis Jordan’s 1947 hit, “Texas and Pacific” for Apollo, of which an alternate take is presented here here. Nice tenor saxophone on this and Lips blasts through his mute although his vocal is a bit flatter than Jordan’s original. “Walking in a Daze” is a terrific straight blues wonderfully sung with just a bit of gravel in Page’s voice and followed by another terrific blues performance, “Miss Larceny Blues,” showing that Page could stand up to Wyonnie Harris, Eddie Vinson and his other contemporaries able to shout, yet invest a lyric like “every time your wagon breaks down, you come running back to me, I’d like to call you lover, but you are larceny,” with the applicable irony.

Page’s rendition of the Jimmy Preston’s “
Roll, Roll, Roll” stomps and rocks as hard as the lyrics suggests. Again more terrific booting tenor sax as well as blistering trumpet. Other highlights include his original recording of “Ashes On My Pillow” which Eddie Vinson had a hit with but King never originally released, his own interpretation of the oft recorded “Open the Door Richard.” Another hot track is “Birmingham Boogie,” a hot jump blues with strong tenor, piano and Lips taking it out on his horn. His Victor recording “I Want to Ride Like the Cowboys Do,” comes across Louis Jordan crossed with the Joe Liggins band with a jive lyric and gutbucket baritone sax in addition to Page. On “The Jungle King,” a take on “The Signifying Monkey” as well as “The Cadillac Song” date from some early fifties sessions for King with a band that included Sam “The Man” Taylor and Harry “Van” Walls. These are terrific idiomatic recordings with a solid, infectious walking rhythm with Taylor terrific on tenor sax as one would expect.

Then their are his duets with Little Sylvia, Mildred Anderson and Pearl Bailey. Page’s duet with Bailey of “
Baby Its Cold Outside” paired with “The Hucklebuck” was very popular. While the former was not included, the lively “The Hucklebuck” is. The success of these led to other duets including the salacious “Chocolate Candy Blues,” with the 14 year old Little Sylvia sounding like an attempt to emulate the Johnny Otis recordings with Little Esther with either Mel Walker or The Robins (the use of a vocal chorus) is consistent with this suggestion.

This compilation of Lips also concludes with some live club recordings originally issued on Circle with a band that includes Tyrone Glenn on trombone, Paul Quinichette on tenor sax, Danny Barker on guitar and Sonny Greer on drums with the lively “
Main Street” and “I’ve Got the Upper Hand” being more strong blues. Barker’s playing here will be a revelation for those only familiar with his banjo playing in his latter days back in his hometown while Quinichette’s Lester Young flavored tenor is as home in the blues as Page’s trumpet and vocals. There is a slight bit of noise on these which I assume is from the source recordings.

Dave Penny has a nice essay in the accompanying booklet, but El Toro does not 
include (because of cost as Dave Penny commented after this review was posted) full discographical and composer information, which is a significant omission. Nonetheless the main attraction on this is the boisterous, exhilarating music of Oran ‘Hot Lips’ Page. This is where the realms of swing jazz and blues meet, and the meeting is such a congenial one. I had this CD on my cd player at work, and I do not know if it was coincidence, but I was in an incredible good mood that day. Its over five and a half decades since Oran Page left this world, yet his music, such as on “Roll, Roll, Roll” has a vitality still today. Like the music of another trumpeter who stood in Louis Armstrong’s shadow, Henry ‘Red’ Allen, he left a body of music that would seem worth excavating by contemporary artists, although one wonders how many contemporary jazz artist would be able to do justice to this material. Perhaps Kermit Ruffins or James Andrews might be recruited for such a project.

I purchased this from

1 comment:

d.penny said...

Hi Ron,
Many thanks for the nice review of my compilation. I've been a great Hot Lips Page fan since the 1970s when I bought an LP of the great Commodore tracks such as "Frantic Blues" and "Bag O'Bones" and then I bought the RCA Vintage LP with all those great trio recordings with Teddy Bunn...
I take on board what you say about the discography and writer credits. I think the problem nowadays is the huge cost of printing CD booklets which is by far the biggest proportion of the budget and to add another six or eight pages to the standard booklet means doubling the cost and then hiking the price of the resulting CD package. I think it best that we keep the CDs affordable so that young people continue to buy them, too.
Regarding the writer credits, although they are not usually included in the packaging, I can assure you that all details are given to El Toro and that each CD is licensed through the Spanish royalty collection society SGAE so that the writers are paid their due.
Keep up the great work and keep listening to the good music.