Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Another Good One Passes On ... Sam Butera

A good friend hipped me to the news, yesterday, that saxophonist Sam Butera, known for his long association with Louis Prima, passed away over the weekend.

Jazz saxophonist Sam Butera dies ...Musician made mark with Louis Prima in Las Vegas

Another link to Las Vegas’ storied past was cut Wednesday morning with the passing of legendary jazz saxophonist Sam Butera, sideman to another Vegas legend, Louis Prima.

Family friends said Butera died at about 6 a.m. at Sunrise Hospital, where he had been since early January suffering from the effects of Alzheimer's Disease.

Butera, who retired in 2004, would have been 82 in August.


The music of Prima and Butera resurfaces from time to time, played in film sound tracks an commercials. A Gap commerical in the '90s, featuring “Jump, Jive and Wail” gave Butera’s career a boost.

“Louis Prima’s true ace in the hole for 21 years was Sam Butera,” Prima’s widow, Gia Maione, said during a telephone call from her home in Florida. “I don’t care what vocalists were with Louis, his true ace in the hole was Sam Butera. Side by side, Louis and Sam kicked Las Vegas’ butt for 21 years.”


“I really do not believe over all of these years that Sam Butera got the accolades he deserved as a tenor saxophone player,” Maione, 67, said. “I defy anyone to name someone that played better tenor sax that Sam Butera.

“From the day I got the job with Louis, before every show every night, emanating from the dressing room you would hear Sam running his scales, running his fingering, making sure his mouthpiece and reed were perfect. He was a technician beyond belief with that instrument, let alone the showman that he was. And you put those two side by side, Prima and Butera, that was it.”

She says her husband didn’t get the credit he deserved, either.

“Both of them were such great showmen and they had so much fun that people overlooked the skill because they were having too much fun,” she said.
Yes, incredible fun, indeed.

More Sam Butera Obits

All Things Considered: Famed Jazzman Sam Butera Remembered

All About Jazz: Sam Butera 1950s-'60s Tenor Saxophonist with Louis Prima Dies

JazzTimes: Saxophonist Sam Butera Dies at 81

Nola.Com: Sam Butera, former Louis Prima saxophonist, dies in Las Vegas at age 81

Sam Butera on Wikipedia

The Music

Louis Prima - Just a gigolo

Louis Prima - Oh Marie

Louis Prima - Angelina & Zooma, Zooma

Louis Prima Jump Jive An' Wail

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