Friday, August 17, 2007

Kermit Ruffins Lively Night at Vaughan's

From the days when he was probably the most visible member of Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins has been playing his trumpet and singing with the idea that jazz can entertain as well as be art. Having reestablished, after Katrina, his long-standing gig at Vaughan’s in New Orleans, his newest recording was recorded in performance there, Live at Vaughan’s (Basin Street). What can one say except this an exuberant collection of performances that should bring a smile to most as he and his quartet handle standards like World on a String and Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?, along with second line gems like Palm Court Strut and Kermit’s Tremé Second Line, and his jazzifying R&B classics like Sly Stone’s If You Want Me to Stay. Ruffins’ band of Richard Knox on keyboards (he has an excellent organ solo on World on a String); Derrick Freeman on drums and vocals and Kevin Morris on electric bass is augmented on several tracks by Roderick Paulin on saxophone and Corey Henry on trombone (both heard on Kermit’s Drop Me Off in New Orleans), Neshia Ruffins (Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans), and others. The most obvious influence on Ruffins is Louis Armstrong which is reflected throughout his playing and vocals. While there is a traditional jazz base to the performances, they are enlivened by a dose of second-line R&B flavoring making for lively, swinging and danceable performances like the Palm Court Strut or Ruffins’ Hide the Reefer (‘because he comes the creeper’), that frankly will bring a smile to the listener, but after listening it will hit you that Kermit Ruffins can really play, like his very fiery solo on the Sly Stone classic.

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