Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers
August 08, 2004
There's a lot of projected pressure on the Sunday closer of Satchmo Summerfest. The performer must display the dignity and class of "Pops" Armstrong. At the same time, the artist shouldn't get bogged down with upholding the past and forget to foster fun in the present. I could see this responsibility on the face of trumpeter Kermit Ruffins. He encouraged people to "party New Orleans style," but he didn't get so enthusiastic that the crowd went crazy, which is what I expected from the last performance at Summerfest. Still, the audience showed their enjoyment by filling the dancefloor and the whole area around the old U.S. Mint. There was a large positive energy surrounding the performance as many people gathered together for music during a beautiful afternoon whose air smelt of barbecue smoke.
Kermit hit the stage with trombonist Corey Henry, drummer Derrick Freeman, a bassist and a pianist. After Henry Butler, the crowd was primed for fun. Ruffins kept it going with swingin' standards and originals. Ruffins wore a curious half-smile that suggested nervousness, but he still gave off a laid back party attitude. He's gonna need to be laid-back if he's gonna be our city's musical daddy. He swung his white handkerchief around and asked if everyone was "all aboard?" Hell, yeah.
So, he hit the crowd with the slower "Basin Street Blues" and "Skokiaan," a foot-jumper that repeated the title in a worry-free, enthusiastic way.
Ruffins demonstrated his trumpet and vocal talent, but he gave up time to show off Henry, who ripped things up more than once.
Like so many others, Ruffins dipped into "What a Wonderful World." He delivered a beautiful version. Kermit took on the responsibility of measuring the past with the present Sunday, and he succeeded.