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December 1998

Hot Lips Page
After Hours in Harlem, 1940-41
HighNote Records

This was caught live by Jerry Newman on his "portable disc recording equipment," and ears accustomed to the standards on today's studio recording will have much adjusting to do. They will, however, quickly be repaid by the exceptional music made in informal circumstances. Jam sessions, once so common, were remembered for moments of glory and their longueurs quickly forgotton. One problem was the frequent presence of drags on the stand, because democracy generally ruled and a kind of sportsmanship commended that feelings not be hurt. So the Lips Page record opens up with Donald Lambert, on piano and the unfortunate Herbie Fields on tenor at a house party, but in subsequent performances at Minton's his fellow jammers include Tiny Grimes, Rudy Williams and Thelonious Monk. A number of the other participants have unfortunately never been identified, but Dan Morgenstern's lengthy notes otherwise give all details and helpfully explain the scene. Interesting though it is to hear Monk so early (he was 21), the great moments are provided by Page, a fine player who hasn't had the recognition he deserved. "Konk," the closer, gives a good idea of the excitement he could create.

In short, a valuable document on the state of jazz immediately before the bebop tumbrels rolled.

Originally published in December 1998
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