(an occasional series reviewing all of music* a few seconds at a time)

The late ’50s were an awkward time for Louis Prima. He’d had a terrific career as the Italian-American answer to Louis Armstrong, but rock ‘n’ roll was growing, and the audience was leaking away from his trad-jazz-entertainment modes and towards this more fiery and energetic form. Prima wasn’t going to turn into Elvis (look at the cover shown here – this track isn’t on that album, but it’s the same year, and I can never resist a chance to show it), but he could take his old jazz repertoire and play it FASTER AND LOUDER.

But he hardly does that at the start of this recording of two Armstrong standards: what I am talking about specifically here is a lost skill: how many modern acts do medleys? Prima did lots. Obviously he knew what to do with both songs, but the problem is joining them together. The solution here is one of the most extraordinary brief feats of vocal dexterity and rhythm imagination I have ever heard. It’s apparently stumbling, but in fact it’s a brilliantly controlled and calculated transition. The music stops, and he sings, sort of. It’s untranscribeable, but it’s something like “Notice the moon is pale, and the sun i-, and then the sun is gone, and, and the steamboats are coming, and they’re splashing and they’re going WOO WOO ah babazoozaa” ending in scat, leading in to the second song. It’s the unnecessary nature of this – he could have recorded them as two separate songs – that I love, as well as it’s absurdity. I remember a terrific conversation with Sinkah once where he was pointing out that Louis Armstrong’s sense of rhythm was extraordinarily more nuanced than most anyone else’s, that he heard musical time in smaller slices than the rest of us, giving him more options. I regard this six seconds as proof that Prima had some of that same rhythmic complexity.

* not a guarantee of completion