It takes all of 30 seconds.
|Kermit Ruffins & The BBQ Swingers
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 44-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 Armstrong."
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.
He'll play himself in an upcoming HBO series named "Treme" for the neighborhood and lifestyle essential to its musical and cultural history.
"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."