The Jive Aces have been delighting audiences for over twenty year with their unique blend of jive and swing.
This week they are back with their new album King of the Swingers: A Salute To Louis Prima - which feature some tracks by Prima as well as covers of other well known songs.
I caught up with Ian from the band to chat about the new record and what is on the horizon for them.
- You are about to release your new album King of the Swingers: A Salute To Louis Prima to what can fans expect from the new record?
Well for those who know Louis Prima, in England if people don’t know him for his music they know him when he was King Louis in The Jungle Book, it is very much a salute to him so it is very Louis Prima influenced and that is very up-tempo and up beat and almost a cross between jazz and rock and roll - it is very jivey. It is great to dance to.
- As you say you are influenced by Louis Prima and there are many of his songs on the album so what is it about his music that you enjoy so much? And why did you want to recognise and pay homage to this particular artist?
I am a singer and a trumpet play and he is a singer and a trumpet player and so there is an influence there. Even Frank Sinatra said that he had the most amazing phrasing and he was very playful.
It I like getting the best jazz musicians and instead of playing a lot of serious music that no one would understand they have just got together and had fun. Because they are such good musicians the can play with it and so it is very playful and very fun and when you listen to it it always makes you smile and want to tap your feet.
He had many careers but is golden age was in the fifties and early sixties when he and his partner and wife Keeley Smith went to Las Vegas and they played in The Lounge there; at the time it was really for background people playing slot machines.
What happened was they played every night from midnight to 6am and they would be jammed packed and they became like a legend. Everyone use to come there and the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin use to come and get on stage - and that is how the Rat Pack was started.
So there is this fun and very iconic style and when he started it at the beginning of the fifties there really wasn’t rock and roll and he was playing New Orleans inspired Jazz, a bit like Louis Armstrong.
He called a guy from New Orleans who was a saxophone player and they got together and they created this rhythm and this was the beginning of rock and roll really.
- Toni Elizabeth Prima, Louis’ daughter, also features on the album so how exciting was it to have her on board?
Oh it was great, and she is so nice as well. It was funny really because we met her through a friend of ours who was in the same beauty parlour having their hair done.
They got talking and she dragged her along to one of our gigs when we were playing in LA and it all started from there really.
- How did you find working with her?
She is great. She is a really good singer and she sounds very much like her mother Keeley Smith, she has got a beautiful voice, and Toni’s voice is very similar to her mother’s.
We have done a few shows together promoting the album and she is also very fun and very professional - she has been the actress as well for many years and so she really is a performer.
- The likes of Oh Babe, Oh Marie and Sing Sing Sing are some of the tracks on there so how did you decide which song made the album?
We picked between the one that were our favourite to listen to and ones that we had already started doing or experimenting with them on stage and the ones that went down the best with the audience.
Oddly enough we have Bring Me Sunshine on there as well, which Louis Prima didn’t do, but because it has the same joyful idea that Louis Prima put over we basically got it and made a Louis Primaish version of it. We Primarised it (laughs).
- You have slightly touched on my next question really the record also sees you cover tracks such as Bring Me Sunshine and Over the Rainbow, which are both well known and well loved tracks, so are there any nerves covering such popular tunes?
I have always loved Bring Me Sunshine and I have always loved Morecombe and Wise - we were brought up with that - and so I have always loved the song.
When I started playing the ukulele it was one of the first songs that I started playing- I even got to play it to Prince Charles at a veteran’s event.
Everybody knows the song and it reminds them of the good times watching Morecombe and Wise and if they don’t know it that well, like many of the Americans, it is just such a lovely song. I think it suited us and so it went well.
- These two tracks in particular are so different to the originals and covers that we have heard in the past so how do you go about putting your own stamp on these kinds of songs?
I guess we naturally… when we arrange our songs we basically have a rehearsal together and we do it all together so we are like ‘let’s do the sax like this’ and we have developed a rhythm.
Because a lot of our gigs have been to dancers, we are very much a dance band, you develop a danceable rhythm even if you are doing a fast song - we have almost developed a formula without thinking about it.
So you jut grab a song and start doing it all together the way the chemistry of the six of us goes and it is almost very easy and just comes out that way and turns into our song.
- You have also had a hand in the production side of the album so how much is that a part of making a record that you enjoy?
It is very much a part of what makes the album or not and all of us have been involved in that but mainly me and Vince, the piano player.
Basically it is about how you are going to put it together and how it is going to come across and you have got to make sure that it comes across in such a way where every song matches with each other to give an overall aesthetic and message I suppose. You just want to make it come together nicely - it is like painting a picture (laughs).
- You recorded over in the States so how was that experience?
It is amazing and it was a lovely studio. It was owned by a jazz artist called Chick Corea and so the studio itself is very much made for jazz and acoustic bands and acoustic instruments. It has his piano in there and it has Paul McCartney’s signature on it and stuff.
When the piano player starts playing it you don’t need to do too much to mix it or change the sound because it sounds nice in that environment. When we got in there and started playing it was just a beautiful sound.
Then just being in LA and Hollywood it is such a great place. When I first went there I was surprised because it wasn’t how I expected it to be but you do get use to it.
We have been a few times now and it is just a really nice place and the people are very friendly and it is a really good place to work - it is very artistic.
- You released your debut album Jumpin’ With The Aces twenty years ago so how have you see the industry change in that time?
It is not even the same industry at all; it is completely different (laughs). That was when CD’s had pretty much started and not many bands made CD’s at the time. The way that we recorded was very different.
Of course we sold that record in shops but very few records are sold in shops now, they are mainly sold at gigs and online really, there are less and less record shops and more downloads now.
- Despite the fact that you have had a career that has spanned over twenty years we saw you take pat in Britain’s Got Talent, where you reached the semi-final, so why did the band decide to audition for the show?
Actually a lot of people were like ‘why don’t you do Britain’s Got Talent?’ and it was something that we had never really thought about - none of us really watch TV (laughs).
Someone saw us in Edinburgh and said ‘you really should put in for it as it would be great’ and so we thought why not? We thought it would be good exposure and we can just have fun and show them what we do and they will either like it or they won’t.
When we did the audition it was amazing and it was great as well because it was what we do as it was in a big theatre in Cardiff - I think there were about 1,400 people in. But they were with us as soon as we walked on stage it was amazing.
- You have mentioned the exposure that a show like that can bring you so how has impacted on the band?
It has been really good. We had two weeks were we were like Jordan and Peter Andre as you have that two week period where everyone who is on Britain’s Got Talent is in the newspapers - we were in a load of national newspapers and all over the internet.
We have been together for twenty years and twenty years ago thee wasn’t Facebook and there wasn’t Twitter and now everyone who had ever seen us play or we had worked with came out of the woodwork and appeared on our Facebook page going ‘hello, do you remember when I booked you? I will come and see you again’.
It is really nice because it has got twenty years worth of audience that are back in touch with us and coming to see us again as well as getting us a whole new audience. I get recognised by people in Starbucks now (laughs).
And we got to play for the Queen and also at the Jubilee as well - we played in Hyde Park in front of ten or fifteen thousand people and that was amazing.
- Finally what is next for the band going into 2013?
We are definitely going into 2013 with a bang (laughs). We are really pushing the album and we are really looking forward to that doing well.
We also have a theatre tour coming up to promote that album and we also have a few dance gigs that we are putting on ourselves and with other people - quite a lot of our audience are dancers.
And we are also going to be doing a lot more videos because Bring Me Sunshine got over two million views and has got us so much interest and exposure so we have got a lot more videos planned.
The Jive Aces - King of the Swingers: A Salute To Louis Prima is out now.
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw