Kermit Ruffins

Big Easy

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On Big Easy, trumpeter and singer Kermit Ruffins is aiming for "that Thursday night at Vaughan's vibe," a live-and-laid-back feel that allows him to draw on all of his various stylistic strengths and influences and to go with whatever feels right at the moment. And indeed, he achieves that on this remarkably warm and spontaneous-sounding studio recording, one which moves easily from New Orleans jazz classics like "Tiger Rag" and "Basin Street Blues" to more eclectic fare like the hip-hop-flavored "One Life" and the pan-Caribbean "Skokiaan." On several tracks, notably the first version of "Skokiaan," the presence of orchestral strings is both surprising and highly effective, and throughout the album Ruffins' glee is infectious and his musicianship impeccable. The missteps are mostly errors of judgment -- "Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner" is a cute song rendered somewhat unbearable by a cloying children's chorus, and his rendition of War's "The World Is a Ghetto" is overly discursive and ultimately tedious, with surprisingly lackluster trumpet solos. Overall, though, Big Easy is lots of good, greasy fun.

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