Louis Prima Jr. & the Witnesses

For a while, Louis Prima Jr. resisted the call of the wild. The only son of the celebrated Vegas headliner, Prima Jr. fronted a locally successful rock outfit in his 20s and continued to dabble in music while building a career in Sin City’s food and beverage trade. It wasn’t until 1995 that the trumpeter and vocalist, then 30, decided to focus fulltime on recapturing the colossal showmanship of his late father. Seventeen years later, having formed his own band of Witnesses, he made his recording debut with Return of the Wildest!, comprising mostly covers from his dad’s repertoire. Blow is fresher, bolder and braver, its playlist dominated by sharp, rowdy originals.

Prima Sr. was a master of controlled chaos. While Prima Jr. captures his old man’s frenetic, party-all-night ethos ably, his sound is more loosely explosive with distinct rock underpinnings. His voice barely hints at Sr.’s barbequed foghorn, remaining much closer in tone and timbre to Huey Lewis. Papa Prima had two secret weapons: Keely Smith and Sam Butera. In Marco Palos, Prima Jr. has a sax ace every bit as ferocious as Butera. Vocalist Leslie Spencer sounds nothing like Smith (who ever could?) but is an impressively soulful stylist, gutsy and powerful.

Prima invades his father’s songbook just twice, for a rollicking “Robin Hood” and a blistering, from-the-grave duet with Louis Sr. on “That’s My Home.” Side-by-side with his father, Louis Jr. proves how worthy an heir he is to dad’s King of Cool mantle.

Originally published in June 2014


  • Jul 16, 2014 at 03:24PM Bruce Klauber

    Don't care for him or the band, Chris, though I am happy to see he's keeping something of the legacy alive. For the past year or so, my Philadelphia-based trio--The All-Star Jazz Trio--has been backing the ageless Peggy King for a bunch of East Coast dates. She's 84, but is singing better than she has in decades. We've got a bunch of stuff up on YouTube, she's got compilation of earlier work that is just coming out on Jasmine, and is now on the coast--without us--doing some dates with Corky Hale. She was off the scene for more than a dozen years before we "recused" her. It's worthy of a story. Contact me at [email protected] Hope all is well, man. Keep swingin' -- Bruce Klauber

  • Jul 17, 2014 at 05:54PM Muffin

    How unfortunate Mr. Klauber felt the need to pooh-pooh this amazing band and really fun contemporary record under the guise of self-promotion. Perhaps if he offered a reason why he doesn't like LPJ, "the band" or his fabulous new singer Leslie I might care about his opinion but since it's clear he hasn't even heard "Blow" his input is irrelevent. His comment was all about "me me me" not about the topic at hand.

    I found this record and absolutely love it. It's the most energetic and rump-shaking good time I've heard on record in a loooong time, particularly in the "jazz" milieu, which can be rather staid. That does have its place, but so does LPJ & The Witnesses. I've caught some of there stuff on YouTube and it seems like the live show is even brassier, ballsier and energized than the record. Cannot WAIT to see them live!

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