Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Louis Prima

  • Zooma Zooma: The Best of Louis Prima [Rhino, 1990] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Zooma Zooma: The Best of Louis Prima [Rhino, 1990]
A Vegas fixture for a quarter century before he died at 67 in 1978, this Storyville-born Sicilian singer-trumpeter shared his entertainment philosophy as well as his Christian name with Armstrong and Jordan. He crossed over r&b with 1950's "Oh, Babe!" but it was the honking tenor and rough vocal cameos of his compatriot Sam Butera that added rock and roll anti-class to a jazz act that pitted Prima's jocular leads against the sensible musicality of his consort Keely Smith. Prima was a go-for-the-gut clown whose signature musical tactic was to intersperse flat-out novelties like "Robin Hood" and "Jump, Jive an' Wail" with two-song medleys that moved the crap-shooting punters on to "I Ain't Got Nobody" before "Just a Gigolo" got old. Since 1990, when Rhino assembled these 18 tracks (14 on cassette, remember that one?), there have been more straight reissues, reshuffled comps, radio transcriptions, and live exhumations than I want to hear or count. More likely to cost four bucks than the 40 some chiselers are charging, this out-of-print 18-track laff-fest is probably the best, probably because it keeps the rock market in mind. The best alternative I've heard is the 1991 Capitol Collectors Series, which has eight more tracks but omits the nostalgic "Robin Hood" and the fat "Them There Eyes"/"Honeysuckle Rose." Forget Capitol's 26-track 2007 Jump, Jive an' Wail: The Essential Louis Prima, with its non-NAACP "Civilization (Bongo Bongo Bongo)," pre-IIADL "Luigi," and bored run-throughs of "Hello Dolly" and "Cabaret." The pura the zooma the betta. A