Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses will bring their high-energy, big band sound to NIAF’s “The Wildest Comes to Washington” Casino Night, during the Gala weekend, performing songs from their latest album “Blow,” and getting the crowd on its feet!
Ahead of the big weekend, Prima Jr., son of legendary trumpeter and jazz-band leader Louis Prima, took time to chat with Pensieri Italo-Americani about growing up in an Italian American household, his band’s unique sound, and what Gala attendees can expect from their Casino Night performance on Friday, Oct. 25.
Pensieri Italo-Americani: How would you describe your band’s musical sound?
Louis Prima Jr.: I’ve called it a couple different things. I’ll call it rock ‘n’ roll with horns, I’ll call it Prima music, or I’ll call it a good time. It’s music that makes you smile and makes you want to get up and dance and makes you want to tap your foot. We are a little bit loud and boisterous. But it’s not just about the sound; it’s about the show as well. It’s good time music; it’s what my father would be doing if he was alive today.
What role did your father, Louis Prima Sr., and your mother, Gia Maione Prima, play in your life and music?
Louis Prima Jr.: My mother put drumsticks in my hand when I was 5 years old and kind of got me playing the drums. It’s odd, growing up with them as parents, because didn’t see it as a musical family. It was a normal childhood, normal Italian upbringing, so to speak. I don’t think I appreciated them as musicians until I got well into high school.
Both of them exuded life and happiness in things, so I think the kind way and the humble way that they both approached people they came across is what influenced me more than music, is the way you treat people along the way.
Your band’s new album “Blow” came out this summer. Tell us a bit about the tracks and what you were looking to get out there with this album?
Louis Prima Jr.: It is mostly original material with a couple little surprises on there. It’s important to me when I started doing this never to be a tribute band. The idea was to play music that I loved, that I think the world loved and needs, and move it forward into the future. And that’s kind of the attitude of this entire band, everybody wants to create something that people will enjoy and listen to.
So this album was very important to us…the diverse musical tastes, the eclectic mix that is this band, came together to create music that I honestly am very proud of and enjoy listening to myself. And, as an entire unit, it’s something we are very proud of, and we hope everyone will give this album a chance and give us a listen and become a fan.
What can attendees at this year’s NIAF Anniversary Gala expect from a performance by Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses?
Louis Prima Jr.: I think we take people a little by surprise. I call it a three-song shock factor. I don’t know where the misconception is or what they think they will get, but we hit the stage like a rock concert. We are a lot of fun; I think we have more fun sometimes even than the crowd, though I don’t know if this is possible. We sometimes forget there is a crowd out there because we are enjoying ourselves so much on stage. There are 10 people up there that love entertaining as much as making music. We don’t work with set lists, you don’t know what we are going to do or say on stage. We hope people will come out and dance and have fun with us. Music is for making you forget the world exists.
Growing up, was Italian American culture a big part of your household? How so?
Louis Prima Jr.: Absolutely. My father, if you didn’t like him for anything else, is the guy that put Italian lyrics on American record labels. He was brought before Congress because during the war they tried to stop him from speaking and singing in Italian. He was very proud of his heritage and his family, and you know I think it’s what kept him and probably me as well from being a typical Hollywood brat. People always ask what your father was like. He was very humble, quiet and soft spoken and kind to people as he went through life, and I think it comes from your upbringing.
And as I travel around and spend time with other Italian families, it’s a common bond; we all have the upbringing and respect for human life and things like that. So the big Italian dinners were a thing. Sunday is the big dinner day. My father is the one that woke us up early, made us go to church and sit down to dinner at 5 p.m.