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Luck’s In My Corner: The Life and Music of Hot Lips Page by Todd Bryant Weeks

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Todd Bryant Weeks’ well-written and extensively researched biography covers Hot Lips Page’s life from his youth in Dallas, Corsicana and Tyler, Texas, to his days as lead trumpeter for Walter Page’s Blue Devils and the Bennie Moten Orchestra, and deals with the ramifications of Page’s decision to leave Count Basie and go it alone as a single with Louis Armstrong’s manager Joe Glaser, just before John Hammond brought the Basie band to New York. The author follows Page’s long association with Eddie Condon’s Mob, his participation in the legendary Minton’s Playhouse jam sessions, and his popularity as the only black member of Artie Shaw’s Symphonic Swing Orchestra, which Shaw was forced to disband shortly after Pearl Harbor. We learn of Page’s involvement with the jump-blues style spearheaded by Louis Jordan, as well as his contributions to R&B, including Wynonie Harris’ “Good Rockin’ Tonight.” Page and Pearl Bailey’s vocal duets on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “The Hucklebuck,” a two-sided hit record, are also discussed.

The development of Page’s “growling” trumpet style, through his unsurpassed use of lip slurs, is analyzed, as is his mastery of the blues, both instrumentally and vocally. All of the above and more are skillfully placed into proper sociological, historical or cultural context. A complete discography and a generous photo section are also included. As for the book’s title, Weeks writes that Page’s “hopeful outlook in the face of adversity could not save him from obscurity. … The real stability and celebrity that Lips sought eluded him.”