Since leaving the Rebirth Brass Band, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins has emerged among the most entertaining personalities on New Orleans’ music scene with the ebullience of his vocals and trumpet. In addition to his small combo, the Barbecue Swingers, heard on this new album, The Barbecue Swingers Live (Basin Street Records) he also leads a big band that is developing quite a reputation in the Crescent City.
The Barbecue Swingers include Corey Henry’s trombone (and rap), Emile Vinette’s piano, Kevin Morris’ bass and Jerry Anderson’s drums. They lay down tasty grooves rooted in the hot swing of the great Louis Armstrong (the most obvious influence on Ruffins) with some bop, brass band, funk and even rap embellishments. So Ruffins mixes in tasty swing on his original Smokin’ With Some Barbecue, sings an amiable St. James Infirmity and mixes in some second-line funk for Do the Fat Tuesday. What is New Orleans has a charming spoken rap by Kermit about the various charms of the Crescent City from various types of gumbo to the Treme Music Hall and Tipitina’s, while trombonist Henry raps in the more contemporary fashion on Peep This Groove Out.
Ruffins plays particularly nice on the Roberta Flack classic ballad, Killing Me Softly With His Song, followed by the street-wise grooves of Rebirth’s Do Watcha Wanna. Kermit Ruffins may not be setting out new musical directions, but their particular synthesis of the jazz tradition is a lively one that will have you feeling things are getting better.