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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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The Essence of

Delta 33324


1. The Lady In Red

2. In A Little Gypsy Tea Room

3. Chasing Shadows

4. Oh Marie

5. Bell Bottom Trousers

6. St Louis Blues

7. That Was A Big Fat Lie

8. Civilization (Bongo Bongo Bongo)

9. The Bee Song (He-Bee And She-Bee)

10. The Pump Song

11. Yes, We Have No Bananas

12. All Right Louie, Drop The Gun

13. Charleston

14. Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue

15. I Beeped When I Should Have Bopped

16. Here Pretty Kitty

17. Oh Babe!

18. Eh Cumpari


1. Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody (Medley)

2. Buona Sera

3. Jump, Jive And Wail

4. Night Train

5. Five Months, Two Weeks, Two Days

6. Body And Soul

7. Angelina/Zooma Zooma (Medley)

8. When You're Smiling/The Sheik Of Araby (Medley)

9. Autumn Leaves

10. I've Got The World On A String

11. Blow, Red Blow

12. The Pump Song (Uptempo Version)

13. There'll Be No Next Time

14. Pennies From Heaven

15. The Birth Of The Blues

16. Closer To The Bone

17. Sentimental Journey

18. When The Saints Go Marching In


Louis Prima is one of those artists who straddled the worlds of jazz and popular music. He actually had hit records like Buona Sera, which was a British hit in 1958. But he was a also a jazzman who played with Red Nichols before forming his own groups, which at various times included Pee Wee Russell, Claude Thornhill and Eddie Miller. In some ways he was very like Louis Armstrong: a popular extrovert trumpeter and singer (with a gritty voice) who was also a born entertainer (like Armstrong, born in New Orleans). But he wasn't just an Armstrong imitator: his style owed much to the fact that he was the son of Italian immigrants to the USA, so he had an Italianate verve and also performed many Italian-style songs like several on this double CD.

The album usefully reminds us not only of Prima's talents as an entertainer but also his abilities as a jazz trumpeter whose bands often contained skilled jazzmen. There are no personnel details or recording dates on the album sleeve, but saxophonist Sam Butera was an integral member of Louis Prima's group, and the unnamed trombonist on Body and Soul is obviously a talented jazzman. He was also a composer of note, one of his best-known works being Sing, Sing, Sing which the Benny Goodman band made so famous.

Prima's teaming with singer Keely Smith (for a while his wife) added to his appeal, since her cool demeanour contrasted suggestively with his excitable personality. Louis was not afraid to follow popular trends like rock 'n' roll, as you can hear in Just a Gigolo with its howling saxophone. He became known to a new generation when he sang I Wanna Be Like You in the 1967 Walt Disney film The Jungle Book.

Despite its inadequate documentation, this reasonably-priced double album gives a good taste of Prima's work - ranging from comedy songs like Yes, We Have No Bananas (with Dixieland interlude) to jazzier items like St Louis Blues and Jump, Jive and Wail (the latter used in the 1990s for an advertising campaign by the clothes store Gap). Louis threw himself into every number, paving the way for such latter-day admiring imitators as Ray Gelato. His popularity as a Las Vegas entertainer should not obscure his brilliance as a jazz musician and leader of some fine jazz ensembles.


Tony Augarde

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