Saturday, November 05, 2011
The Great Jazz Singers Louis Prima and Keely Smith
Proud of his Italian heritage — which he incorporated into a number of his songs — Louis Prima was a veteran of the jazz scene who struck gold in the 1950s by mixing his Louis Armstrong influences with swinging jazz, throbbing jump blues, early rhythm ‘n’ blues and Sicilian zaniness.
By itself, his music was unforgettable; but when combined with his hilariously brash sense of showmanship, Prima became unstoppable. Backed by saxophonist Sam Butera’s band and a succession of straight-faced female foils (the finest being the angelic Keely Smith, who went on to achieve major success as a solo artist), Prima put on a high-energy show that registered well with crowds everywhere.
Prima also wrote such standards as “Sing Sing Sing,” and “A Sunday Kind of Love.” His bawdy act excited the sex-starved masses of the Eisenhower era, earned respect from jazz hipsters and was appreciated by greasy-haired teens growing up on rock ‘n’ roll.
The “Queen of Las Vegas” swing, Keely Smith, is one of the last living legends of the great Rat Pack era of the 1950s and ‘60s. For nearly half a century, the Cherokee-Irish singer has thrilled audiences around the world, entertaining music fans with unequaled charm. Keely is perhaps best known for her partnership with Louis Prima, with whom she helped turn Las Vegas into an entertainment mecca for the rich and the famous. On February 10, 2008, Smith performed "That Old Black Magic" with Kid Rock at the 50th Grammy Awards.