*Written in 2015.
After getting back from my recent New Orleans trip and having seen Kermit Ruffins play live at the Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street, I wanted to know more about him and especially about his legendary run as a performer at Vaughan’s Lounge. I’ve been a fan of his music ever since discovering him on Pandora a few years ago and after seeing him play himself on HBO’s Treme.
For those who don’t know, Kermit Ruffins is one of the most charismatic performers that you will ever see play live. His shows incorporate his stellar and almost legendary trumpet playing, his vocals, his fantastic band and all sorts of other performers who he often times brings right out of the crowd. Kermit also comes off as a stand-up comedian with his sense of humor and hilarious monologues between songs.
Jay Mazza’s book captures the magic that surrounds Kermit Ruffins and the allure of the cozy Bywater neighborhood spot Vaughan’s Lounge. It chronicles the history of Vaughan’s and is also a condensed biography of Kermit. It talks about how the two forces came together and united – creating a New Orleans institution that ran for over two decades.
The book also discusses the impact of Hurricane Katrina and how the lounge and Mr. Ruffins worked through the mess and did everything they could to keep the positive spirit thriving in New Orleans despite tremendous adversity and challenges.
If you care about jazz, music in general or New Orleans culture, this book is a must read. It is pretty short and quick to get through but it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I’ve since added Mazza’s other books to my Amazon Wish List.
Pairs well with: Other books on New Orleans music: Ernie K-Doe by Ben Sandmel and Up From the Cradle of Jazz by Jason Berry, Jonathan Foose and Tad Jones come to mind. Also, HBO’s Treme.