This year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival poster has been unveiled, and it comes with an intriguing story.
The artist: Anthony Benedetto, AKA legendary jazz and pop singer Tony Bennett, who played last year’s Jazz Fest.
“He was an exceptional performer and a dear friend and he embodied the buoyant spirit of New Orleans,” Bennett said about Prima, who died in 1978, in a press release.
This year, Jazz Fest will feature performances by Prima’s son Louis Prima, Jr., his daughter, Lena Prima, and Keely Smith, Prima’s fourth wife and stage partner (they also appeared together in the 1959 film Hey Boy! Hey Girl! ) Also on the fest bill: Bobby Lonero’s Tribute to Louis Prima with Johnny Pennino & the New Orleans Express.
My first encounter with the joys of Prima came when I was a child, and I thrilled to Disney’s The Jungle Book, and its accompanying soundtrack. Prima was the voice of King Louie, the orangutan who kidnapped young Mowgli. The unforgettable tune: A swinging “I Wanna Be Like You.”
“Although we can’t match the reinventive force of Louis Prima, 2010 also marks the launch of the third generation Jazz Festival Poster Series: The Musical Artist as Visual Artist. Graphic artists creating mostly imaginary scenes dominated the first generation of the series in the 1970’s and 80’s, followed from 1989 through the 2000’s by painters depicting New Orleans music legends, harkening back to our celebration of legendary grand marshals in the first two posters. We now turn to artists whose talents are not bounded by a single medium and who bring a heightened level of understanding to the subject.”
Last year, Bennett, now 83, donated dozens of musical instruments to a New Orleans charter school. For details, check out the USA Today story.