The album has 25 tracks recorded between 1933
and 1950 and presented in chronological order. Louis Prima’s career
however went well beyond that time, he continued to work regularly
until the 1970’s. He died in 1978 after a long illness. His wife
Keely Smith joined the band as vocalist in the late 40’s and is
heard on this album on tracks 24 & 25.
Prima set out to be a ‘white’ Louis Armstrong
and by and large succeeded, despite being a self taught trumpet
player. Born 10 years after Louis, he managed to absorb the sound,
the phrasing, most of the technique and most of all the stage
presence of Armstrong. This made his band a very ‘in demand’ commodity
and enabled him to employ many of the best sidemen around to complement
his band. On these various tracks the likes of Georg Brunis, Pee
Wee Russell, Eddie Miller, Claude Thornhill and Ray Bauduc are
all featured and the standard of all the musicians is high throughout.
As with most recordings from this era, the reproduction
is variable, but Living Era does a remarkable job on 78 restoration
and everything presented here is of reasonable quality. A good
deal of discographical research has also been undertaken. Prima
was regarded as a ‘pop’ artist during most of his life and has
tended to be ignored by the purists, which is a pity because his
musicianship is far superior to some they idolise.
Similarly to Louis he went through a bigger band
era when that was what the ballrooms demanded, but just like the
master, it is his small group work that is the more interesting.
What shines through the whole thing is his enthusiasm and ability
to ‘strut his stuff’ for the customers. From the sleeve notes
I also learned that he was also a great natural comedian and his
shows must have been great entertainment. He is a musician who
should not be forgotten and this release is therefore timely and