Louis Prima

1934-1935

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Born and raised in New Orleans, Louis Prima came up in his hometown gigging steadily in the clubs and doing his best to emulate Afro-American musicians. His number one role model was Louis Armstrong. After playing Cleveland with Red Nichols in 1932, Prima began recording in 1934 and thoroughly established himself on 52nd Street in New York City the following year. Prima was good looking and sang in a pleasantly hoarse voice. His humor was often heavy-handed, and his bands pushed hard to generate excitement among live audiences and the record-buying public. Prima's 1934 bands had strong players in George Brunies, Claude Thornhill, and Eddie Miller. "Jamaica Shout" is a rare example of instrumental Louis Prima: hot jazz with nobody yelling. "Breakin' the Ice" was the first in a series of Prima interpretations of songs made popular by Fats Waller. Bill "Bojangles" Robinson performed a lively version of "I'm Living in a Great Big Way" with Waller during the last reel of the 1935 RKO motion picture Hooray for Love. Waller never managed to make an actual phonograph recording of this song. Prima had fun with it and with every tune he grabbed onto, sometimes maybe too much fun. During "Let's Have a Jubilee," which was recorded twice during November of 1934, Prima spits out weird nicknames for each bandmember, including "Baboon Face" and "Liver Lips." This sort of talk was not uncommon among Afro-Americans, but it is particularly unsettling coming out of the (big) mouth of a (Southern) white musician. The real gold on this CD lies in the last six tracks, ground out by a band that had Pee Wee Russell as its artistic nucleus. Prima was the handsome leader, Prima sang and blew his trumpet, but Pee Wee was the light, the emulsion, and the pigment in this picture. "The Lady in Red" just might be the very best record that Louis Prima ever made, largely because of the magical presence of a gifted clarinetist with poetic sensibilities and a tone like nobody else.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:27 SpotifyAmazon
2 2:51 SpotifyAmazon
3 2:43 SpotifyAmazon
4 2:50 SpotifyAmazon
5 2:44 SpotifyAmazon
6 3:11 SpotifyAmazon
7 3:00 SpotifyAmazon
8 3:17 SpotifyAmazon
9 2:46 SpotifyAmazon
10 3:07 SpotifyAmazon
11 3:04 SpotifyAmazon
12 3:01 SpotifyAmazon
13 2:34 SpotifyAmazon
14 2:45 SpotifyAmazon
15
2:57 SpotifyAmazon
16 3:06 SpotifyAmazon
17 3:06 SpotifyAmazon
18 2:54 SpotifyAmazon
19 3:02 SpotifyAmazon
20 3:10 SpotifyAmazon
21 3:02 SpotifyAmazon
22 3:03 SpotifyAmazon
23 2:54 SpotifyAmazon
24 2:37 SpotifyAmazon
blue highlight denotes track pick