There’s no shortage of youngish horn players looking to carry on the traditions of Miles Davis or John Coltrane, but for some reason, following in the footsteps of Louis Armstrong doesn’t seem to have as much of a cachet for those born after the New Orleans legend’s heyday.
Rebirth Brass Band founder Kermit Ruffins, perhaps the primary purveyor of good-time jazz extant, showed an eagerness to do just that when he rolled into this intimate space on Monday night in support of the just-released “Putumayo Presents Kermit Ruffins.”
Although the trumpeter didn’t tote along the meat-filled smoker that often accompanies him to gigs around the Crescent City — perhaps because he was playing a venue noted for its edibles — his quintet did open the perf with a suitably finger-lickin’ rendition of Armstrong’s “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue.”
With trombonist Corey Henry serving as an ideal foil — sometimes mirroring his playing, sometimes flanking him with teasing trills — Ruffins settled into a friendly amble on the unflaggingly welcoming “Chicken and Dumplings” (which bopped along in obvious homage to Horace Silver).
Perf didn’t flag when Ruffins put down his horn to take a few vocal turns. He’s not the most accomplished singer, but delivered with a wink, his delivery was winningly warm as on a “Sunny Side of the Street” that saw him tinker with the syntax when it appeared too many in the aud were anticipating his next phrasing move.
To provide some vocal counterpoint, special guest Topsy Chapman, who appears with Ruffins on a companion CD entitled “Putumayo Presents New Orleans,” joined the quintet for a sassy “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home.”
The key to Ruffins’ appeal is his ability to come across as playful without being kitschy — always a difficult maneuver when traversing territory this well traveled. That contributed to his ability to steer the 75-minute set through miles of smiles with nary a groan heard.