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Album Review: Kermit Ruffins – We Partyin’ Traditional Style!

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    “All aboard,” Kermit Ruffins bellows at the outset of “Chinatown, my Chinatown”, the first cut from We Partyin’ Traditional Style!. It’s a fitting intro for a record that takes listeners on a spirited trip through New Orleans’ rich musical history, and Ruffins, a seasoned jazzbo as soaked in Orleanian heritage as they come, is happy to play the role of conductor.

    There’s an unstoppable celebratory element to New Orleans culture, and it soaks into everything from the city’s food to its nightlife and most definitely to its music. As such, We Partyin’ Traditional Style! makes no bones about its background. The record finds Ruffins and his musical accomplices coloring traditional jazz staples such as “All of Me”, “When It’s Sleepytime Down South”, and “When The Saints Go Marching In” with vivid splashes of trombone, banjo, drums, piano, clarinet, and bass, with Ruffins’s piping trumpet often taking the lead.

    But while the record boasts Ruffins’ name, Partyin’, in pure New Orleans fashion, is a collaborative affair, one defined more by the whole of Ruffins’s crack musical team than any of its individual parts. All the principal parties get their time out in front, including Ruffins’s slinky but soulful runs on “Careless Love”, Richard Moten’s jaunty stand-up basslines that skitter atop “Jeepers Creepers” and Lucien Barbarin’s fat trombone on “Treme Second Line.”

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    It’s Ruffins’s selfless ability to facilitate without commandeering the limelight that gives Partyin’ an honest feel. That may be nothing new for a genre built on collaboration and improv, but in a world too often dominated by a compulsion to jump in front and steal headlines, it’s refreshing to watch a group honor their roots with a true sense of camaraderie.

    Essential Tracks: “Chinatown, My Chinatown”, “Treme Second Line”, and “Careless Love”

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