Mosaic Records is proud to announce the release of The Complete Brunswick and Vocalion Recordings of Louis Prima and Wingy Manone (1924-37). Consummate entertainers, both trumpeters grew up in New Orleans during the exciting seminal days of jazz when personality was even more important than instrumental prowess. For Prima and Manone, this often overshadowed their outstanding contributions to the jazz legacy. Containing what are arguably the finest performances in their prolific careers, the Mosaic set will go a long way toward dispelling that misperception.
Like every other trumpeter and vocalist of the first few decades of jazz expression, Prima and Manone were profoundly affected by Louis Armstrong, but both men cited unrecorded trumpeter Buddy Petit as a major influence as well. Born in 1904 and 1911 respectively, Manone and Prima both came up during a time when black and white musicians were forbidden by law to share a public bandstand. But during those times Italian-Americans and African-Americans frequently interacted on and off stage. Black bands would perform opposite white bands in the clubs many owned by Italians and would often perform together in informal and unpublicized sessions.
Prima, whose dark complexion and kinky hair would later cost him jobs at segregated clubs, also took inspiration from the music in the black churches of his youth, instilling the exuberant gospel spirit that would always be a part of his performing persona. Manone, who at the age of nine was told by his trumpet teacher that black bands were faking it," wisely took that as a clue to end his formal lessons and immersed himself in the exciting new music called jazz.
The music contained in this set provides clear evidence of the wisdom of both mens musical choices. The 64 selections by Prima were all recorded between the years 1934 and 1937 as he made the transition from the New Orleans approach to the Swing style that had taken the nation by storm, and helped establish New Yorks 52nd Street as its capitol.
Although Prima flirted briefly with a big band in 1936, 11 of the 13 sessions included here feature smaller groups ranging from quintet to octet. The spectacular and innovative clarinetist Pee Wee Russell is a featured soloist on more than half the tracks, although only two are pure instrumentals (Jamaica Shout" from his first session and Tin Roof Blues" from the final one of this set). Primas ebullient vocals share the spotlight with his fiery trumpet stylings on all the others, including his classic composition Sing Sing Sing" which following Benny Goodmans immortal 1937 version would set the tone for the extended jazz works that would follow.
Among his other hit records featured in this set are Chinatown, My Chinatown," Dinah" and Way Down Yonder in New Orleans." No matter how many others recorded the many popular tunes contained here, Prima, like his idol Louis Armstrong, had a knack for making every tune his own. In addition to Russell, such notables as New Orleans heavyweights George Brunies and Sidney Arodin, along with George Van Eps and a very young Claude Thornhill lend their extraordinary talents to these dates.
While Prima (along with his vocalist wife Keely Smith) became a top attraction in Las Vegas and a mainstay in television and the movies, Wingy Manone was probably best known for his work with Bing Crosby. However, Manones 83 tracks contained in this set are a powerful testament to his stature as a great jazzman in his own right -- and his still-existing reputation as one of the finest trumpeters in the New Orleans tradition. Like Prima, Manone who lost the name Joseph along with his right arm in a streetcar accident at the age of ten was a superb showman, with a ruggedly hot trumpet style matched by his rough-hewn voice. This set includes his first recording in 1924 with the Arcadian Serenaders and an appearance on one tune of a 1927 Red Nichols session, as well as his first recording as a leader earlier that same year.
Most of the sessions however, took place between 1934 and 1936 and feature members of the defunct Ben Pollack Band that would eventually become the nucleus of Bob Crosbys band. These included tenorman Eddie Miller, clarinetist Matty Matlock, pianist Gil Bowers, guitarist Nappy Lamare and drummer Ray Bauduc playing powerful small band swing with a heavy New Orleans flavor. Also like Primas band, this group was an early fixture on Swing Street." Manones biggest hit, 1935s The Isle of Capri," is included here, and it led to numerous recording sessions for Vocalion over the next year featuring such luminaries as Bud Freeman, Joe Marsala, George Brunies and Sidney Arodin. One of the great treasures contained here is a wonderful 1934 pick-up session that had once been thought lost, featuring such giants as Jelly Roll Morton, Artie Shaw, Dicky Wells, Teddy Wilson, John Kirby and Freeman. Other interesting items include a number with Russ Morgan and his Orchestra; a previously unissued demo" by vocalist Jeanne Burns; and an infamous session with Jack Teagarden and a young vocalist named Johnny Mercer, that was so whisky-laden that the band had to be re-assembled a week later to cut the final track.
Most of the tracks on this excellent Mosaic release are issued for the first time on CD in the U.S. (many unreleased even on LP) and 12 that are previously unissued in any form. As always, Mosaic has spared no effort in reproducing this material with the finest audio quality under the guidance of producer Scott Wenzel and the brilliant mastering and audio restoration of Vincent Cano. The beautifully produced booklet features nearly two dozen extremely rare photographs, along with a delightful essay and detailed session notes by noted collector/historian Lloyd Rauch, further enhanced by excerpts from Manones autobiography Trumpet on the Wing.
The Complete Brunswick and Vocalion Recordings of Louis Prima and Wingy Manone (1924-37) will undoubtedly bring new recognition to two fine artists whose show-biz reputations have unfortunately eclipsed their outstanding musical artistry.