Nathen Page: Fiery Picker


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Guitarist Nathen Page was at home in the modal jazz idiom of the 1970s and '80s. Though not especially well known by jazz fans due to his retreat to Florida in the 1970s and his limited-distribution releases on his Hugo Music label, Page was a remarkable player. He straddled multiple genres, from a metallic sound found in rock at the time to a warmer jazz style.

Born in West Virginia in 1937, Page was self-taught and early on listened only to country music on the family radio. As a result, he was drawn to his mother's piano at age 8. After she had to leave the piano behind during one of the family's moves, Page's brother bought him a guitar with cowboys and Native Americans painted on the instrument. His jazz exposure wouldn't come until later, when he was in the U.S. Army in the late 1950s.

Discharged in the very early '60s, Page moved to Washington, D.C., where he he worked in a gas station and played in pop bands. In 1965, he joined organist Jimmy Smith and recorded on Smith's The Boss album for Verve in 1968. In the '70s, he played with a large number of top-name jazz artists, including Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, Herbie Mann, Charles Tolliver and Roberta Flack.

Page was a fiery player, using a plastic thumb pick and groomed index-finger nail to peck at the strings. He formed a quartet in 1974, and in '77 he launched Hugo Music. Two years later, he moved south to the Orlando, Fla., area to be a decent sized fish in a small jazz pond. In 1999, he moved to Bradenton, just north of Sarasota, from Altamonte Springs in central Florida. Page died at age 65 in 2003.

Here's Page's solo on Invitation off of his album Plays Pretty for the People...

Here's the full Invitation, with Charles Covington (p), Nathen Page (el-g), Steve Novosel (b) and Mike Smith (d) in 1979...

Here's Page with Charles Tolliver on Compassion from Tolliver's New Tolliver in 1977, with Charles Tolliver (tp), Nathan Page (g), Steve Novosel (b) and Alvin Queen (d)...

Here's Page with Jimmy Smith on Fingers from The Boss in 1968, with Jimmy Smith (org), Nathen Page (g) and Donald Bailey (d)...

And here's Page with Smith and Charles Crosby (d) in Denmark in June 1969 playing Ode to Billie Joe, Sonnymoon for Two, Days of Wine and Roses, Got My Mojo Workin' and Satin Doll. Bill Kirchner, who knew Page well, notes, “Jimmy Smith bought Page that Guild guitar when Page joined the group"...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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