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New Orleans trumpeter Kermit Ruffins has kept his light under a basket. On the scene since his membership in the Rebirth Brass Band in the early 1990s, Ruffins struck out on his own with the first of three solo outings on Justice Records, World on a String (1992). Ruffins followed his debut with two additional Justice releases, Big Butter and Egg Man (1994) and Hold on Tight (1996). In 1997, Ruffins assembled The Barbecue Swingers and recorded Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers Live for Basin Street records. Culled from a show captured at New Orleans' famous Tipitina's on November 14, 1997, The Barbecue Swingers Live perhaps best captures Ruffins' free-wheeling good time temperament. His music is decidedly on the traditional New Orleans side with some surprises. On The Barbecue Swingers Live he plays side-by-side the traditional "St. James Infirmary" with Roberta flack's "Killing Me Softly with his Song". Ruffins sings very much in the spirit of Louis Armstrong and was dubbed "Satchmo's Smiling Soul" by Down Beat magazine last year. The Down Beat article details a Ruffins' show at the Barbecue Swingers regular Thursday night gig at Vaughan's in the Big Easy. Listening to Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers Live gives the listener an idea of what that sounds like.
Ruffins favors shuffles, those songs that make one walk sideways with rhythm. The opener, "Chicken and Dumplings" and "Do the Fat Tuesday" are good examples. These same shuffles are found on his two later Basin Street releases, Swing This! and 1533 St. Philip Street. Swing This, like Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers Live has the traditional and less traditional. "Bogalusa Strut" and "Ain't Misbehavin'" exist along side a big band sounding "But Not For Me" and "This Little Light". Ruffins' own "Hide the Reefer" is a brilliant throwback to the reefer songs of the '20s and '30s. Ruffins' specializes in reefer songs, including "Jack, I'm Mellow" on his latest Basin Street release.
Kermit Ruffins is the traditional antithesis of Wynton Marsalis. Where I have always considered Marsalis pedantic and thereby his music stifled by reverence, Ruffins allows the music to breathe from his horn. Kermit Ruffins has a good time and his music shows that. A modest talent, Ruffins infuses his music with his larger-than-life personality and good nature. His band is tight and arrangements rollicking. Ruffins' music can be found at Basin Street Records , along with the music of Los Hombres Calientes and Irvin Mayfield. Kermit Ruffins , himself has a website under construction. Check out this cutting-edge traditional jazz.
The Barbecue Swingers Live: Introduction; Chicken And Dumplings; Interlude; Smokin' With Some Barbecue; St. James Infirmary; Interlude; Just Showing Off; What Is New Orleans; Do The Fat Tuesday; Peep This Groove Out; Killing Me Softly With His Song; 000 Whatcha Wanna; The Star Spangled Banner. (Total Time: 62.51)
Swing This: Bogalusa Strut; Things Are Getting Better; Ma; But Not For Me; This Little Light; Treme; Can't Take My Baby; Hide The Reefer; Fruit Punch; Swing This!; Bucket's Got A Hole In It. (Total Time: 70:12)
1533 St. Philip Street: Ole Miss Blues; Drop Me Off In New Orleans; Bye And Bye; Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; Black And Blue; I Still Get Jealous; Jack, I'm Mellow; Meet Me At The Second Line; Keep Walkin; In The Bag; Some Of These Days.
The Barbecue Swingers Live: Kermit Ruffins: Trumpet, Vocals; Corey Henry: Trombone, Rap; Kevin Morris: Bass; Emile Vinette: Piano; Jerry Anderson: Drums.