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Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers
May 31, 2014 @ 8:00 pm$15
It takes all of 30 seconds.
Whether listening to a track on his newest CD, engaging him in conversation
or hearing his voice on an answering machine message, one word springs
immediately to mind to describe Kermit Ruffins.
The 49-year-old New Orleans native lives it, plays it and sings about it,
and nowhere is it more evident than when he discusses his craft the
swinging, good-time jazz that lured him in as a teenager and continues to
whet his appetite even three decades and 10 solo recordings later.
“You definitely pick that up from me. Thats definitely the way I live, man,”
he said. “From the time I wake up in the morning, I’m itching for my next
show to happen. It can’t get here fast enough for me. I think thats the
basic ingredient of New Orleans music. Our traditional music. Its really
just happy music. A lot of other jazz players are very technical and
concentrating on studying hard. We study hard, too, but what we most want
to do is just get up there and experiment with the tunes that weve been
playing for years and years.”
At this point in his career, in fact, having fun at work is a prerequisite.
The mandate for fun in performing traces back to a musical role model Louis
Armstrong. Though he grew up in a decade when Michael Jackson, Bruce
Springsteen and Madonna were at the top of late-teen playlists, Ruffins
still vividly and emotionally recalled the moment when Armstrong a New
Orleans icon became the be-all and end-all of his musical universe.
“When I started out playing, it was down on the streets in the French
Quarter for tips, and wed sit and watch all the guys in suits going inside
to play in the clubs,” he said. “I was watching one day when, all of a
sudden, I heard one trumpet on the juke box. I was 19 or 20 years old, and
it was Louis doing a solo on When You’re Smiling. I was so overwhelmed that
I went that day and bought all the CDs of his that I could find. I started
to watch videos all the time, and from then on, whenever my friends got
together to play, wed be drinking, eating barbecue and watching Louis
Ruffins legacy-in-progress includes co-founding the Rebirth Brass Band in
1983. Rebirths creation was inspired by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which
was credited with bringing influences of funk and contemporary bebop into
New Orleans style brass bands.
In 1992, he founded the Barbecue Swingers, a traditional jazz quintet that
mixes music with another of his true loves, food. And now, hundreds of
shows and barbecues later, prolonging the status of jazz in New Orleans is
among Ruffins pet projects.
“Kermit Ruffins is one of the prime reasons why New Orleans is mending
post-Katrina, bringing his good-time music to the people as an entertainer,”
said All Music Guides Michael G. Nastos on Billboard.com, “As a trumpet
player and singer of heritage jazz, soul, and popular music, he’s uplifting
the spirit of Crescent City dwellers who are slowly but surely rebuilding
their neighborhoods. This CD further defines that role.”