In the age of the single download, Jeff Harford
rediscovers the album.
Singer/trumpet player Louis Prima had been knocking audiences
out with his exuberant mix of jazz, swing and comedy for more
than 25 years before successfully capturing something of that
old black magic on vinyl.
The Wildest! (1956), the first of Prima's albums for
Capitol Records, gave the irrepressible bandleader the
satisfaction that no previous recording had, courtesy of its
live-in-the-studio ambience and some key contributions from
back-up performers half his age.
Backed by tenor sax whiz Sam Butera and members of Butera's
band the Witnesses, Prima lays down 10 tracks that spark with
the same adrenaline-fuelled fire that houses at Las Vegas
clubs and lounges had been enjoying nightly since the pair
first hooked up in 1954.
Singer Keely Smith, Prima's fourth wife, is the other
essential ingredient, playing it straight down the line as he
toys with lyrics, goofs with Butera and generally stirs the
With the big-band era in decline, Prima is ready and willing
to tweak the formula to acknowledge the gathering storm
clouds on the horizon.
The set begins with two-song medley Just A Gigolo/I Ain't
Got Nobody, springing to life when the latter kicks in
and hinting at rock 'n' roll's strident beats and affected
Snappy duet (Nothing's Too Good) For My Baby follows,
the first of several that find the couple parroting lines in
a playful bout of domestic one-upmanship.
The games continue on the frantically paced Oh Marie,
where this time it is Prima and Butera who are trying to trip
each other up, and on Jump, Jive And Wail, the
dancefloor filler that has since made it on to every
essential lounge music retrospective.
Buona Sera distils all the crooning, scatting and
swinging into one mighty performance as the band members egg
each other on through three effervescent minutes.
As party music goes, this is some of the wildest, most
contagious fun you can have.