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Tuesday July 22nd 2014

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By Hana Frenette

A typical day for Kermit Ruffins involves a lot of two things: music and food. But mostly food.

The New Orleans trumpeter and singer has made himself known to the world for the music that he plays, and is now being reintroduced as a chef.

“Even at my shows before, I would always have a big barbecue stand outside,” Kermit Ruffins said.

Ruffins recently opened his own speakeasy—Kermit’s Treme Speakeasy—in New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood, and it features a handcrafted menu of Cajun delicacies.

“I get there early in the morning, about seven, and I get to cooking red beans and rice, cabbage, hot sausage and stewed rabbit,” Ruffins said. “And then I’m done by about 11 and I have my daughters come and try everything and we sit and eat a bit.”

Ruffins currently plays at his speakeasy twice a week, in addition to his rigorous regular show schedule around New Orleans.

“We play lots of shows around the neighborhoods, and festivals, and sometimes big weddings and parties,” Ruffins said.

Ruffins has been playing the trumpet since eighth grade. The music teacher demanded that classical jazz be played, as well as contemporary, and Ruffins quickly fell in love with the music of Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan, and Duke Ellington.

“Duke Ellington—the whole instrumentation—I kind of tried to imitate that,” Ruffins said, adding with a laugh, “Some people say I stole his style.”

Ruffins currently has two ladies singing with him, Nayo Jones, and Mykia Jovan.

“Nayo can play the hell out of the flute, and her daddy was a music educator so he helped to teach her from an early age,” Ruffins said. “And Mykia is great, a style like Billie Holiday. You know the guys like Duke Ellington, they always had girls singing with them, too.”

Both girls perform regularly around New Orleans, in addition to the shows they play with Ruffins and his band.

“The first time we played with the girls, the crowd just went wild,” Ruffins said. And just like that, they became a regular part of the act.

Before Ruffins made a name for himself, he co-founded the Rebirth Brass Band with Keith Frazier, a friend from high school. He played with the band for almost ten years. Today he plays with his own band, the Barbecue Swingers, a traditional jazz quartet.

When Ruffins isn’t playing in his band, tailgating, or cooking for his speakeasy, he makes the occasional guest appearance on a cooking show or two. He’s been on the Food Network a few times, as well as “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” on the Travel Channel.

“Zimmern is a really good guy, so much fun,” Ruffins said. “He lets me show the world that I’m really a master chef, and I just happen to make music on the side.”

Cooking and music seem to be coming together perfectly for Ruffins, especially now that he has his own outlet with the bar.

“I’m blessed to be doing some things, but I’m really blessed to be doing most things,” Ruffins said.

When Ruffins isn’t performing or cooking, he can often be found at his speakeasy, drinking a Bud Light and eating something he himself prepared that morning, leisurely watching a band.

Blessed indeed.

KERMIT RUFFINS AND THE BARBECUE SWINGERS
8:15-9:15 p.m., Saturday, Heritage Stage

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