There are many purists who would strongly object to Louis Prima being referred to as a Jazz musician. Truths to tell, a lot of his popularity early-on was due to his catchy and clever mashup of novelty songs and bouncy delivery. Even later on, during his legendary era with Keely Smith and his years holding court in Las Vegas, his music was considered a variation on the theme of Swing and Dixieland with a liberal dose of Pop tossed in.
But Jazz? Many thought not. However, Downbeat Magazine thought he was, and would routinely run articles, reviews and considered Louis Prima to be an excellent example of Jazz Trumpet during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Whether it was heartfelt of tongue-in-cheek was how the reader and enthusiast responded.
This appearance, via the Mutual Broadcasting System‘s weekly program Spotlight Bands, was sponsored by Coca-Cola and was aimed primarily at the youth audience. Other prominent bands were featured on the series, going from the well known (Harry James) to the sweet (Sammy Kaye). This was what the youth of America were listening to, while Jazz went through its gestation and evolution and making inroads to the mainstream. It was hard to separate the two for a while. Many radio programs who regularly featured big band remotes, from clubs and concerts around the country would run a Sammy Kaye date one week and a Count Basie date the following week. The field was broadened during this period of the 1940s; going from the War to post-War musical tastes.
Louis Prima was a native of New Orleans, the musical mash-up capitol of the world; the place which was a springboard for Jump-Blues and musical hybrids, who gave the music world Louis Armstrong; the artist who crossed over many musical fences during his lifetime. This was the landscape of music during the period of transition – and this was why fans got an education and were turned on to a lot more than just one musical style in the process of discovery.
So here is that gig, given at Camp Shanks, New York on January 1946 – Louis Prima, playin’ pretty for the troops.