Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers
Basin Street Records
“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”
We glimpsed this quote displayed in a storefront window in the French Quarter on a recent weekend trip to New Orleans, and it certainly is the truth. From the food – try the shrimp po boy at Verti Marte on Royal- to the history that surrounds you from the moment you get off the plane at Louis Armstrong International, New Orleans has withstood weather, economic downturns and generations of corrupt government and still continues to shine. This is due in large part to the cities relentlessly laid back attitude- “You can’t drink all day without starting in the morning”– my recommendation is a duck fat infused Sazerac at Atchafalaya on Louisana Avenue to welcome the day- and the never-ending party. You can drink a beer at 7 AM on the streets, bars never close, and jazz fills the air everywhere you turn.
So heading down Frenchmen Street one evening we spied a notice for Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers playing at the Blue Nile and hopped in. From the moment Ruffins and his band hit the stage to the rallying cry of “WE PARTYIN’!”, the essence of Nawlins was in the house. Ruffins, a local legend who founded the Rebirth Brass Band in 1983 while in high school and has gone on to mythic status while putting out loads of records, acting in Treme, and hosting his BBQ feasts at Vaughns. A skilled trumpeter in the style of Louis Armstong (Satchmo’s “Jeepers Creepers” was an early set highlight), Ruffin’s infectious manner carries on the cities great jazz legacy. The Barbecue Swingers- bassist Kevin Morris, drummer Jerry Anderson and the wonderful Yoshitaka ‘Z2’ Tsuji on piano provided Kermit solid backing throughout the set, featuring several numbers from their newest cd #imsoneworleans. The New Orleans standard “Iko Iko” never sounded better, with a roomful of fans shouting back “IKO!” to Ruffins, or an apt Valentine’s Day rendition of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” featuring the standout trombone of guest Haruka Kikuchi, also on the new record.
#imsoneworleans is another great record from Ruffins, with a shout-out to Professor Longhair with “Tipitina” and featuring Nayo Jones vocalizing on “At Last”. “Put Your Right Foot Forward” is a funky rundown, while “Mexican Special” gives Ruffins’ stellar skills on the trumpet to shine. Leaving New Orleans was hard indeed, but a handful of Kermit Ruffins CDs- and maybe a Sazerac or two- will keep the memories alive until we can get back.