Personnel: Keely Smith (vocals); Jack Bashkow (alto saxophone); Jerry Vivino (tenor saxophone); John Chuboda, Jim O'Connor (trumpet); Ben Williams (trombone); Dennis Michaels (piano); Kenny Ascher (synthesizer); Chip Jackson (bass instrument); Joe Cocuzzo (drums).
The proposition of deep freezing a late-'50s gig by Louis Prima and Keely Smith with accompaniment by Sam Butera & the Witnesses -- which usually earned its tag, no small praise, as the Wildest Show in Vegas -- and thawing it nearly 50 years later is a risky one; specifically, it risks losing most of the energy that made the show so special in the first place. Nevertheless, when Keely Smith's booking agent, Allen Sviridoff, suggested that she resurrect the sound and feel of a vintage Prima/Smith show for a live appearance, she agreed. Recorded for the Concord label, Vegas '58 -- Today can't help but pale next to the real thing. Most importantly, absent are Prima's volcanic performance personality and Butera's powerful band; in the show, Smith functioned as a cool flame, an able foil for all the exuberant action going on around her. Her 2004 band is energetic and powerful enough, and they do a solid job of recycling some of Prima's own arrangements for his standards like "Basin Street Blues," "Lazy River," "Jump, Jive, an' Wail," and "That Old Black Magic." And Smith makes the date as loose as her old shows with Prima, laughing and giggling and even good-naturedly sharing her possible lack of judgment in trying to reprise Prima's vocal performances herself (which she then confirms by performing them). She does still shine on the material she performed with the classic show, such as "Don't Take Your Love from Me," "That Old Black Magic," and a breathless closer, "What Kind of Fool Am I?" ~ John Bush