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October 2001

Kermit Ruffins
1533 St. Philip Street
Basin Street Records

New Orleans' ebullient ambassador is back with more appealing good-time tunes that easily straddle the modern/traditional divide. A bright-toned, swinging trumpeter and gravel-voiced singer in the Armstrong mold, Ruffins conveys a warm, engaging personality here with his Barbecue Swingers.

The Armstrong connection is unmistakable in his wide vibrato trumpet stylings on the opener, W.C. Handy's "Ole Miss Blues," and his charismatic vocalizing on his own ode to his hometown, "Drop Me Off in New Orleans." Another towering influence, the irrepressible Louis Jordan, comes through on Kermit's jivey rendition of Jordan's "Tillie." Ruffins also dips into the past for spirited readings of "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," the '30s pot anthem "Jack, I'm Mellow" and "Black and Blue," a Fats Waller tune that was originally introduced by Louis Armstrong in the 1929 all-black Broadway musical Hot Chocolates.

Ruffins also conjures up an authentic Dixieland flavor on the old chestnut "Some of These Days," featuring some loose, interactive conversing throughout by Ruffins on trumpet, Dr. Michael White on clarinet and Corey Henry on trombone. A more modernist approach is represented here by Eddie Jefferson's scat vehicle "Keep Walkin'" and Nat Adderley's soul-jazz anthem "In the Bag," both of which are shaded by David Torkanowsky's hip piano voicings throughout.

With this release, his third on Basin Street and sixth overall, Ruffins continues a tradition of playful showmanship in jazz that began with Armstrong, Waller, Stuff Smith and Cab Calloway in the '30s, was carried on by cats like Louis Jordan, Leo "Scat" Watson and Slim Gaillard in the '40s and Louis Prima and Dizzy Gillespie in the '50s.

And Ruffins n'atchully puts a N'awlins slant on things.

Originally published in October 2001
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