New Orleans is the only place on the planet that could have produced native son Kermit Ruffins. Whether he's blowing trumpet on a Louis Armstrong classic or one of his own hot numbers, Ruffins embraces the tune with the true spirit of the city. Ruffins' music, like New Orleans itself, swings hard with a big heart as it remembers tradition and the importance of good-timin" fun. Born on Dec. 19, 1964 (sharing the birthdate with New Orleans' legend Professor Longhair!), Ruffins is a modern hipster in possession of an old soul.
There's a knowing grin on Ruffins' face and a smile in his voice and trumpet when the stylish leader steps out with his Barbecue Swingers. Formed in 1992, the band is aptly named as it reflects the two things for which Ruffins is highly noted—hot jazz and a smokin" barbecue. The smell of sizzling sausage browning on the grill set up in the back of the trumpeter's gleaming red pickup truck usually greets folks heading for Ruffins' shows. Meanwhile, inside the club, Ruffins brushes his own spicy sauce on uptempo favorites like 'swing This!" the title cut from his 1999 disc on Basin Street Records.
Ruffins learned to cook by his grandmother's side, chopping onions at the kitchen table, while observing her techniques at the stove. As a musician and chef, he believes that the arts of music and cooking share many qualities.
"Music is real real good for the soul and so is food super good for the soul," declares an enthusiastic Ruffins. "It's a spiritual thing too," he adds. "I mean when you put both of them together, I think you have the biggest party ever. And that's what New Orleans is famous for, putting that good food on the table at the same time while they have the hottest band in the city on stage."
Ruffins first gained recognition with the ReBirth Brass Band, one of New Orleans' hot young ensembles that helped shake up the traditional music. He and high school classmate, tuba player Phillip Frazier co-founded the group in 1982. Ruffins' strong musical presence and warm personality soon made him a crowd favorite. It was with ReBirth that Ruffins' talents as a composer emerged, contributing what would become brass band classics "Do Whatcha Wanna" and "Put Your Right Foot Forward." Like so many New Orleans trumpet players before him, Ruffins the musician also became Ruffins the vocalist.