New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2003
Ruffins is equally charismatic, a trumpeter and singer with twinkling eyes, an infectious grin and a heaping helping of Satchmo-inspired showbiz savvy. "When I Die, You Better Second Line" could be his next big hit. And the two daughters and niece angelic kids of 8 or 9 who get a guest shot at every Jazzfest, almost steal the show. Ruffins had a final surprise: a 12-piece string section came onstage to furnish a cushy curtain of sound beneath his dreamy rendition of "Stardust."
Speaking of stealing the show, flutist Kent Jordan was just fine, but his sister Stephanie set hearts aflutter. She's a singer with poise and pizzazz, with a voice and an appealing look that bring to mind Carmen McRae and Lena Horne. Kent wrested the spotlight back, switching to piccolo and steaming through "Trane Depot" at a breakneck pace.
Astral Project, New Orleans' pre-eminent modern jazz band, is always pumped up for Jazzfest, and drew extra inspiration this year from the fact that their performance on May 3 fell 25 years to the day from their very first session. A serpentine blues, "Spiracle," was the most fetching tune.
There was much more to Jazzfest XXXIV and to the nighttime extravaganzas Piano Night, the Ponderosa Stomp, et al not to mention the forays into favorite eateries like Drago's, Uglesich's, the Royal Cafe, the Acme, House of Blues and (a new discovery) Elizabeth's. But for me, for now, that's all she wrote.