Luck's In My Corner: The Life and Music of Hot Lips Page
Todd Bryant Weeks
Hardcover; 320 pages
Almost any book on trumpeter Hot Lips Page (1908-1954) would, of course, be welcome in the library of jazz scholarship, but beyond filling that role excellently, Todd Bryant Weeks has authored a compelling narrative about one of America's hard-working, unjustly overlooked jazz artists. Pages' career spanned the early days of jazz (Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith), hit its stride in the swing era (as a leader and with Count Basie and Artie Shaw) through jamming with the modernists at Minton's legendary club (like guitarist Charlie Christian, pianist Thelonious Monk, tenor saxophonist Don Byas and drummer Kenny Clarke). Yet, even as Weeks points out that Page's musical abilities "allowed him to sit on any bandstand," he makes a clear case for his unjust placement in the shadows of jazz; the author states, "This work is an attempt to bring Lips out of the shadows and into the sun."
The book presents a vivid picture of the South Texas environment that Page (née Oran Alfred Page) was raised in and discusses what music might have influenced this very young musician. Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie is quoted as saying, "When Lips gets on the blues, don't mess with him; not me, not Roy (Eldridge), not Louis (Armstrong) - nobody!" and the author posits that it's probably because he grew up close to Blind Lemon Jefferson. There are a lot of details in the book: his family tree, what addresses he held in NYC, quotes from his son Spike and many of his musical colleagues, almost daily recounting of his gigs; all backed up with plenty of footnotes. However, it's not a mere recitation of facts: the details are skillfully woven together in a way that the reader may visualize (and almost hear) the days of this great artist's life. Also included are an exhaustive discography (listing dates, musicians, labels and media) and nine musical transcriptions. Todd Bryant Week's labor of love has produced a deep and powerful book.