Kermit Ruffins – Big Easy
(Basin Street – 2002)
by Matt Robinson
New Orleans is one of the greatest cultural conglomerations on the face of the earth. From the remains of past conquerors likes Spain and France to leftovers from the thousands of international expatriates who gather there for the Crescent City’s festivals and endless parties, it is a gumbo within the American melting pot. On his latest CD, Nawlins’ horn man Kermit Ruffins dips in a big ladle and comes up with a tasty menu of multi-ethnic flavors that range from his own roots in Jazz to tinges of Reggae to Rock. From the opening Dixieland theme song “Tiger Rag” and the easy-going swing of “Basin Street Blues” to such second liners as “When I Die” and the butt-shaking “Palm Court Strut,” it is evident that Ruffins has his hometown well in hand when he lays it on his horn.
Through the musical march of the subtly but noticeably rearranged “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and the Latin spice of “The World is a Ghetto,” Ruffins also shows other sides of his Jazz repertoire; a mode he escapes with the Wyclef-ian jam “One Life.” Along the way, Ruffins also returns to his childhood with the juvenile family affair “Breakfast Lunch and Dinner” and then to one of his personal favorites with a second mix of “Skokian” that closes the album with all the energy and flavor of the broadly talented performer and the wonderfully diverse city he calls home.
©2002, M. S. Robinson, ARR