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Before & After with Kermit Ruffins

Music, the great unifier

Kermit Ruffins
Kermit Ruffins onstage at the 2014 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

For more than 20 years, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins’ name was synonymous with the raucous, legendarily late-night Thursday gigs he performed with his BBQ Swingers at Vaughan’s in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood. Since retiring from that residency last summer, he’s proudly courted a quieter lifestyle, sticking to early set times and focusing more on the traditional New Orleans jazz he fell in love with as a teenager.

Last year, he released an album of early jazz classics on Basin Street Records. Eschewing his usual addition of funk and R&B elements, he plays straightforward versions of tunes such as “All of Me” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” with some of the city’s top traditional jazz players. (He also reins in his proclivity for clowning around, except for the album’s jokey title, We Partyin’ Traditional Style.) Ruffins-who co-founded the Rebirth Brass Band in 1983 before quitting a few years later to play more traditional music-is currently working on plans to record a new album with the Louisiana Philharmonic.

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