On the return from the Morristown Jazz and Blues fest, a new conversation with Louis Prima Jr.
No matter what you called it – swing, jump blues, early rock ‘n’ roll – the music of conductor Louis Prima was fun and addicting.
From New Orleans to New York to Las Vegas, it has reinvented itself over the decades to entertain audiences. Since his death in 1978, he has never ceased to be rediscovered, from “I’m Just a Gigolo” by David Lee Roth to “The Big Night”. These days, however, his son, Louis Prima Jr., carries on his father’s legacy of keeping the public smiling.
At 6 p.m. on Saturday, Prima Jr. brings back his contagious music and theater to the 10th annual Morristown Jazz and Blue Festival, which returns to Morristown Green after a postponement of the 2020 pandemic. It also brings Prima Jr. back to The Garden. State, where his mother grew up and where he went for a childhood vacation. Her mother, Gia Maione, who sang with the Prima band, was born in Roebling and her maternal grandfather owned a restaurant in Seaside Heights, where he set up an organ to entertain patrons.
“I understood it from all angles,” said Prima Jr.
Prima Jr. grew up watching his dad play since he was three. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as a stage person. I just thought it was okay that, you know, my dad went to work at five o’clock instead of nine in the morning, ”he said.
“He was the same guy on stage that he was in person,” said Prima Jr.. “He loved to laugh. He liked to have a good time. He took great joy in all aspects of life.
Prima Jr. started a rock band as a teenager, but ended up working in the business world. When he was in his forties and his own children were older, he decided to devote himself to music full time and perform in the style of his charismatic father.
“It’s not a tribute band,” he said, but he and his band, The Witnesses, sprinkle some of his father’s hits into their repertoire of original songs and like-minded covers, like the Adam Ant’s swing-style hit “Goody Two Shoes.”
“You learn things just by watching and I think that gave me the right way to entertain, to have fun on stage. A live show is supposed to be entertaining – it was the best at it, “said Prima Jr ..” I haven’t studied it, but you are learning what you grew up with and luckily that is reflected in what me and my group are doing. ”
For her second album, “Blow”, and her upcoming third album, Prima Jr. recorded at the Capitol Records studio in Los Angeles where her father – and many longtime stars – recorded.
“It’s just cool to be in there and I think just being in the room, recording in it, you get a better performance,” he said.
Like many artists, Prima Jr. was unable to perform for over a year due to the pandemic.
“We’re just outside of ourselves so we can be back on stage in concert,” he said. “Live music is good for the soul, not just the fans and the crowd, but mine and my musicians as well.”
Big band sound Swingadelic, guitar swing from Frank Vignola and his trio, percussionist Winard Harper and his band Jeli Posse and bluesman on harmonica Rob Paparozzi Juke Joint will also be present at the festival.
Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival
Saturday, noon to 10 p.m., on Morristown Green, Morristown
Free entry. For more information, visit morristownjazzadblues.com.
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Marty Lipp can be reached by email at [email protected].