After a last-minute change, members of Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses are swinging their way to Chautauqua for a night of jazz.
“We have band members flying from New Orleans, from Las Vegas and early in the morning, other band members will start driving at about 5 a.m. from New York City to bring Chautauquans a great show,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the originally scheduled headliners Big Bad Voodoo Daddy canceled due to a family emergency. But Chautauquans looking forward to a night of big band jazz and swing need not worry – Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses will take the stage at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.
The group is an energetic, horn-driven 10-piece band known for “over-the-top performances” with a “boisterous New Orleans-style,” according to TulsaPeople. Heading the group is Louis Prima Jr., the son of jazz and swing legend Louis Prima Sr., whose hits make up a core piece of the band’s set.
From the 1940s to the 1960s, Prima Sr. embraced the Italian language and his Sicilian heritage at a time when ethnic musicians were discouraged from incorporating their identity in their music.
His 1956 rendition of “Buona Sera” reached No. 1 in the singles charts of several countries, and he helped popularize jump blues.
Prima Sr. — known for other hits like “Pennies from Heaven,” “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” and “Oh Marie” — also voiced King Louie in the 1967 Disney film “The Jungle Book,” and he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010, the centenary year of his birth. He died in 1978 at age 67.
“Many people will know the song ‘Jump, Jive An’Wail,’ ” Moore said. “That would have been a feature for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and now we will hear the son of the man himself sing it. So, out of some unfortunate news has come something really beautiful.”
Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses released its debut album in 2012, and since then has been dedicated to preserving the vintage “Prima Sound” that came to define Vegas lounges in the 1950s. Prima Jr. has a few hits of his own under his belt, including “New Orleans,” “Go Let’s Go” and “Blow.”
“If you were ready for a night of swing and joy, that night will still be delivered,” Moore said.