Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses at Danbury Palace
By Linda Tuccio-Koonz Published 12:00 am, Monday, July 11, 2016
The Palace Danbury, 165 Main St. Saturday, July 16, 8 p.m. $50, $40. 203-794-9944, thepalacedanbury.com
Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses entertain at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The group will be in Connecticut for a Saturday night show at the Palace Danbury on July 16. Photo: Ian Seidenberg / Contributed Photo
Photo: Ian Seidenberg / Contributed Photo
IMAGE 1 OF 3 Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses entertain at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The group will be in Connecticut for a Saturday night show at the Palace Danbury on July 16.
There’s a contagious energy about singer/songwriter Louis Prima Jr. As soon as he starts talking, you feel that if you miss his next gig, you’ll be missing the best party of all time.
But it’s not surprising, considering his background. His dad was the late Louis Prima, a popular entertainer for five decades. His mom, Gia, was Prima’s lead singer, and a big-time music fan. She used to hang out on the beach with Frankie Valli, saw the Beatles in their heyday (he has photos to prove it) and taught him to play the drums when he was 5.
Prima Jr. said the main thing his father did was “make people happy” with his music. He didn’t stick to one genre. When big bands were in, he had a big band, and when rock ’n’ roll came to town, he got into that, but always moving it forward with his own style.
And that’s what Prima Jr. does — a bit of everything. Based in Las Vegas, Prima Jr. is the frontman for The Witnesses, known for delivering a seamless blend of hard-driving, big-band jazz, insanely danceable swing and real rock ’n’ roll.
“We’re not your typical band; we’re not what people are used to with swing or jazz or whatever you consider us,” he said. “Each member is a rock star in their own right; they’re fantastic musicians. I’m not a leader with a bunch of employees, so to speak. There are 10 of us on stage and then there’s our sound engineer, Donny (Palmer). He’s our production manager and road manager, too. He’s the 11th Witness; he contributes just as much as the rest of us.”
Prima Jr. and The Witnesses will bridge the gap between swing and rock this weekend when they appear at the Palace Danbury for a Saturday night show on July 16. The entertainer said those who attend should expect to “jump, jive and wail, Prima style.” Dancing is definitely encouraged.
It’s all about the shock factor, he said, referring to what occurs at his shows. “It takes people about three songs with their mouth open to go, ‘Oh, what just happened?’ We hit like Aerosmith hitting the stage.”
The idea is to have everyone feeling great, including the band. “It’s ‘How happy are you, and how happy can you make others?’ If you’re sitting in your seat, we’re not affecting you like we should. We love people to get up and enjoy themselves, the way people did before music became all lights and dancers.”
With no script and no set list, each show is unique. “What happens is up to the band. Everyone is featured and gets to shine. There’s lots of jumping around. Sometimes I turn around on stage and just start laughing; everyone is having so much fun, I forget the crowd is there.”
Saturday’s audience will hear material from the band’s latest album, “BLOW,” as well as tunes from its first album, including Louis Prima classics. There will be old favorites, such as “Just a Gigolo,” plus lots of surprises.
Part bandleader and part ringmaster, Prima Jr. said it was never his goal to be the guy with the microphone, with everyone behind him. He said the band is a family, both on stage and off.
“I come from a very rock ’n’ roll attitude. I did rock myself for a lot of years, but somebody has to direct the traffic (on stage). I just want it to feel like somebody is playing music in your backyard for your pool party.”
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