Contagious party music from big band era

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 pot.

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 vocal mannerisms.

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.


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