LOUIS PRIMA The Wildest! (Pure Pleasure)


Louis Prima has perhaps become marginalised by popular culture; I’ve only heard his name in the film “Big Night”, where his potential but non-eventual appearance is the MacGuffin that drives the plot, and when his saxophonist Sam Butera, then a frail 75 year-old, supported Van Morrison, back in the day when he wasn’t too stingy to hire an opening act. He also appeared as the orang-utan King Louie in the Disney version of “The Jungle Book”, although as I haven’t seen the film since I was three I can probably be forgiven for requiring a bit of prodding from Wikipedia on that one.


The sleevenotes to this 1957 recording suggest it brings the atmosphere of a 3AM Las Vegas lounge to a record, and, although I’ve never been to one, it sounds like it's been achieved here. Prima and his sidekicks play an exuberant fusion of jazz, blues, rock and roll and comedy. I don’t know whether it could be classed as swing, but even if it can’t it certainly does. These ten tracks sound like the kind of musical interludes you might expect to encounter during an episode of “The Goon Show”, albeit more ribald and raucous than the BBC Home Service might permit. A medley of “Just A Gigolo” and “I Ain’t Got Nobody” degenerates into a boisterous call-and-response frenzy, and a few lines of “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” are rudely reversed into “Body And Soul”.


There’s no desiccated jazz purism here; this is what used to be called fun, and maybe still is. And note how the cover, with its yellow-orange tinting and open-mouthed, eyes-closed singer predicts that of “Here’s Little Richard”, released two months later.


As to Pure Pleasure’s 180 gram vinyl, well, how can I resist the work of a company whose motto is “The vinyl record: the most beautiful music format in the world”? They’ve done their usual fine job here, producing an album that wears its five decades lightly.