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Kermit Ruffins: Happy Talk

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Kermit Ruffins, the good-time trumpet player who portrayed himself last year on HBO’s Treme, is the same brash cat audiences first warmed to in the early ’80s, when he was a teenager co-leading the Rebirth Brass Band. And Happy Talk, produced by Tracey Freeman (of Harry Connick Jr. fame) and several cuts above Ruffins’ most recent discs, effectively explains his appeal, aptly conveying the warmth, vigor and joie de vivre he brings to his stage appearances. It doesn’t hurt, either, that Ruffins is joined by a superb rhythm section-pianist Matt Lemmler, bassist David Pulphus and drummer Herlin Riley-and such high-caliber horn players as tenor saxophonist Eric Traub and clarinetist Dr. Michael White, a labelmate.

Louis Armstrong’s presence is felt, of course, on several tunes associated with Pops, including the hard-swinging “Shine,” with Ruffins’ trumpet charging straight out of the gate before shifting to his playful vocals and inspired solo turns by Traub, trombonist Mark Mullins, Riley and the leader. Also on offer is a sweetly swinging “Hey Look Me Over” and “La Vie En Rose,” with White swirling around Ruffins’ jaunty declarations.

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