Kermit Ruffins

Kermit Ruffins

Swing This!

Basin Street

One of the great benefits of what appears to be a music renaissance in New Orleans has been the influx of fresh young trumpeting talent. Grammy-nominated Nicholas Payton, only in his mid-20s, has made a huge national impact while continuing to play locally whenever he can, while 21-year-old phenom Irvin Mayfiend, who also plays in Los Hombres Calientes, is a rising star. But the renaissance also has its roots in the resurging brass band scene, and one of the best recent products of that seen is Kermit Ruffins, who along with the Barbecue Swingers, gigs all over town.

Ruffins, an alumnus of the equally improved ReBirth Brass Band, has developed an interesting rivalry with James Andrews in that both trace their musical influences directly to Louis Armstrong — both in playing and singing. (Andrews, in fact, calls himself and his recent CD “Satchmo of the Ghetto.”) Throw in 21-year-old phenom Irvin Mayfield, and New Orleans doesn’t lack young trumpeters. But Ruffins, with his laid-back, sometimes offbeat delivery and crystal-clear playing, is my personal favorite.

On Swing This! , his follow-up to last year’s excellent live album, Ruffins tackles standards and classics while showing a deft touch on his originals. While it’s also standard to say that you have to hear a musician live to appreciate him — and it’s certainly true in this case — there is an undeniable joy and mischief heard on Ruffins’ work that makes him so attractive. Whether on the trumpet or when singing, Ruffins’ rough edges mask a strong sense of musicianship honed during his years with ReBirth.

You can hear it on traditionals such as “Bogalusa Strut” or classics such as Clarence Williams’ “Bucket’s Got a Hole in It,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” or Cannonball Adderley’s “Things Are Getting Better,” in which Ruffins tosses in a snippet from George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” for the first of a couple of times — just for fun. Ruffins knows exactly when to lay back and hit his notes right on time, and the result is pure joy. Speaking of fun, Ruffins obviously shares Satchmo’s passion for the lovely herb — Armstrong was once rumored to leave the Big Easy for the Big Apple because the cops were going to bust him on possession charges. That love comes through on “Hide the Reefer,” laying the growly vocals on thick with a scat dash for good measure.

No swing trumpeter would be any good without a solid backup band, and the Barbecue Swingers deliver, particularly tenor saxman Roderick Paulin and pianist Emile Vinette. This ain’t retro fever; it’s just red-hot jazz with a solid ear for the past.

Basin Street Records, 4151 Canal St., New Orleans, LA 70119

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Rat Film
    Rat Film

    Baltimore. Rats. A match made in Maryland.

  • Bishop Briggs
    Bishop Briggs

    Bishop Briggs brings a stacked bill of up and comers to Orlando for a sold-out party at The Social. Jen Cray joins in the fun.

  • Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World
    Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World

    There’s more than black music influencing the evolution of Rock and Roll. Native American rhymes and ideas are every bit as significant, once you know to look for them.

  • Keith Morris
    Keith Morris

    Ink 19 slings a few questions to the punk rock pioneer Keith Morris on Trump, Calexit and looking back.

  • Soul Understated
    Soul Understated

    Soul Understated was a swizzle stick of jazz, funk, pop with a dash of Radiohead in the delightful DC cocktail.

  • Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu
    Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu

    That Trip We Took With Dad is the debut feature by acclaimed Romanian short film director Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu. Generoso Fierro sat down with Lǎzǎrescu during SEEFest to discuss the comedy and drama within the adaptation of her deeply personal family story for the screen.

  • Aware
    Aware

    The Book Of Wind (Glacial Movements). Review by Carl F Gauze.

  • BANG: The Bert Berns Story
    BANG: The Bert Berns Story

    The music biz collides with the mob in this documentary chronicling the fast and dangerous life of legendary ’60s songwriter, producer, record mogul, Bert Berns.

  • The Suicide Commandos
    The Suicide Commandos

    Time Bomb (Twin/Tone). Review by Scott Adams.

  • Tricot
    Tricot

    3 (Topshelf Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

From the Archives