Kermit Ruffins with Rebirth Brass Band: Throwback CD
In 2005, 12 years after Kermit Ruffins left the Rebirth Brass Band to pursue a solo career, he reunited with his former bandmates to produce this rollicking, party album befitting of both the Ruffins and Rebirth names. In 2018, this exquisite release was re-mastered, re-designed, and put on Vinyl for the first time providing a new audio experience for lovers of New orleans brass band music.
1) Make Way For The Rebirth (6:34)
2) Mr. Big Stuff (3:43)
3) Here to Stay (4:12)
4) Mardi Gras Day
5) It’s Later Than You Think (5:33)
6) Happy Weekday Blues (3:12)
7) I Got A Woman (6:11)
8) What is New Orleans Part 2 (6:26)
9) Just a Closer Walk With Thee (5:18)
10) Happy Birthday (2:24)
11) Rebirth Medley: My Song, Pie Pt. 2, Mexican Special (7:01)
12) Up in tha Hood (5:16)
- Kermit Ruffins – Trumpet, Vocals
- Philip Frazier – Tuba
- Keith Frazier – Bass Drum
- Derrick Tabb – Snare Drum
- Derek Shezbie – Trumpet
- Glen Andrews – Trumpet
- Stafford Agee – Trombone
- Corey Henry – Trombone
- Vincent Broussard – Tenor Sax
- Troy Andrews – Trombone Solo on “ Mardi Gras Day”
- Mary Griffin – Vocals on “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” and “Up In Tha Hood”
- David Torkanowsky – Wurlitzer on “Up In Tha Hood”
- Christina Ruffins, Neshia Ruffins, Jimmy Slack, III and A’Jon Jones – Vocals on “Happy Weekday Blues” and “Happy Birthday”
- Ajay- Mallory – Vocals, Percussion
- Alfred Weston – Vocals
- Reed Watson – Cowbell
- Percy Williams – Percussion
- Keng – Turntables
- Produced by Tracey Freeman
- Executive Producer: Mark Samuels
- Associate Executive Producer: Will Samuels
- Recorded and Mixed by Steve Reynolds
- Assistant Engineer at Piety Street: Drew Vonderhaar
- Mastered by Vlado Meller at Sony Music Studios/ NYC
- Art Direction by Hal Braden and Tom Thompson
- Graphic Design by Hal Braden
- Prepress by Diana Thornton
- Photography by Donn Young
- Narrative by Kermit Ruffins
Me and Rebirth
I wanna tell you a li’l story about New Orleans, y’all . . .
When I was a young kid, my dad was the manager of a band called M.G. Funk. My Uncle Percy, who played the trumpet in the band, was always over at the house and always let me blow on his trumpet. Of course I didn’t know what I was doing other than making noise but it didn’t seem to bother nobody.
Eventually Uncle Percy gave me my own mouthpiece and I would take that mouthpiece everywhere I went, blowing on it all throughout the neighborhood. I did this for about a year and all the while me and my brother kept after my mom and dad for trumpets. We wanted to play the trumpet so bad. We bugged our parents for a long time. I was in the eighth grade, and one day after school, right there lying on the sofa was two new trumpets. We went crazy!
The next day when we went to school we joined the marching band. It was Lawless in the lower 9th Ward. I found myself sitting in last chair which meant I wasn’t very good. It was almost at the end of the school year and I was last chair but I was anything but discouraged. I knew what I wanted to do.
That summer I went to Summer Band Camp at Lawless. All I did that summer was play trumpet! When school started for the next year, I was sitting in first chair.
I put together a little band at Lawless on the side. It was me and some cats from the marching band. They let us play at basketball games, you know, during time out or halftime and what have you. I wouldn’t say we were a “brass band” back then. It was sort of just a band to have fun.
After Lawless, I went to Clark Senior High School and joined the school band. After my audition, I took first chair. This is where I met Phil Frazier. We almost went a whole school year knowing of each other but not really hanging out or anything. It wasn’t until around graduation time for the seniors that we actually met.
See, they gave me the trumpet solo to play at the graduation and Phil, who was really a trombone player at the time, had to play tuba at the ceremony. Something happened with the tuba player and we needed a strong tuba player for that occasion and Phil got recruited. I never will forget it. We were playing a tune called “I Can’t Get Over You” and I walked up to Phil and said, “Hey man, give me A LOT of bass!” That was really the first time I talked to Phil.
After we performed, me and Phil really hit it off. We decided to meet at his house early in the summer to form a new band. Sure enough, we got some guys together and just practiced and practiced, all summer long.
After school started up the next fall, a lady with the Parent Teacher Association asked us to play for a party at a hotel in town. We had a few tunes so we played the party and it was a lot of fun until the end of the party because they threw us out. Well, I don’t mean they tossed us out on our butts or anything; it was just that they were serving booze and we were all underage!
We didn’t have a car so after the gig, we decided to take a short cut home which would be through the French Quarter and on Bourbon Street. We were all carrying our instruments and some guy said, “Hey play us a number!”
Well, there we were-we struck up some tunes and people started tipping us. People were digging it and they were giving us cash money for hanging out playing music! They kept tipping and we was trippin! What I mean is, it all happened quite by accident.
Man, we took that money and went straight to Popeye’s before we went got us some beer. We couldn’t believe our luck. I mean, it must have been almost eighty bucks! Right then and there we decided we’d head right back to the French Quarter the next day and almost everyday.
It wasn’t long before we printed up business cards. The name of the group was, well, the name was “The Group.” We were playing our butts off for tips and making what we thought was big money at the time.
One day, we were playing a party in one of the projects for an organization called “Rebirth.” It was a guy named Bobby Leonard who was trying to help out the kids and all. He decided he wanted to be our manager and we all said “Why not?”
You have to do one thing, he said. “I want y’all to change your name to Rebirth.” The cat never really became our manager, but that is how we got the name Rebirth Brass Band.
Phil’s mom decided to move right into the heart of the Tremé Neighborhood. Once we started hanging out in the Tremé we started to feel like young professional musicians.
The Tremé was full of bars, little corner hangouts with live music everywhere. Everybody was in the neighborhood, especially the brass band musicians. I’m talking about Uncle Lionel, Tuba Fats and Benny Jones, cats like that. I’m talking about the Olympia Brass Band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and all those old brass bands. At that time, there weren’t any younger generation brass bands. We were the first one.
Eventually we got booked at the Jazzfest just to march around the fairgrounds. Phil left the band for a while so he could go off to college. We had another cat sit in on tuba during that time, but it was always Phil’s spot if he wanted to come back. And sure enough, after a year or so at Grambling, he did come back. Phil was the best tuba player on the scene, that’s all there is to it.
The Rebirth started playing some of this swing stuff, in our own style. We all would get together and watch old black and white Armstrong videos. Something was happening inside of me, that’s for sure. Something was changing. I wanted to sing.
I loved the whole scene but after catching the Armstrong bug really bad, I wanted to sing and the brass band thing wasn’t exactly the best way to start belting out vocal standards. To scratch my new itch, I formed a combo on the side. Just like in the early days of the Rebirth, I took my new combo out to the French Quarter to play for tips. We actually had a standup piano on wheels and we’d roll it all the way to the Quarter every time we went to play!
My girl’s mom had a neighborhood bar named Lil People’s Place and me and my new combo started playing there on a regular basis. Allison Miner gave us a spot on the stage she ran at Jazzfest and I had no idea how much that one gig would change my life.
It just so happened that a cat from a record company in Houston saw my combo gig at the Jazzfest. His name was David Thompson and after the set he came over to me and gave me his business card. If you wanna make a record, he said, give us a call. I thought it was cool but you know, you hear a lot of stuff from a lot of people like that. It wasn’t until I got a phone call from his boss, Randall Jamall who owned Justice Records, that I knew this was serious stuff.
Sure enough, Justice Records signed me and another one of my dreams came true. Randall produced the type of record I really wanted to make with all of the great, great cats in the city like Danny Barker, Ellis Marsalis, Walter Payton and others. Finally, I was swinging out and singing those songs I fell in love with. I really did have the world on a string.
It was perfect timing too. I was married by then and had two baby daughters. I was totally burnt out on the road. The Rebirth was rolling hard, touring like crazy and I just couldn’t do it anymore. The band was about to leave for a month long tour of Africa when I broke the news to Phil. As much as it was a dream to go to Africa, I told him it was time for me to get off the road and spend some time with my new family and all. He said he saw it coming and there were no hard feelings at all.
I tell you what. Every new year is better than the year before. In God’s perfect timing, all my dreams come true.
I always knew in the back of my mind that I’d do another project with Phil and the Rebirth and last fall I decided that the time was now.
It was wonderful fun to record this record. When Phil and the guys came to the studio with me, it seemed like we were never apart. It was so natural and it was a party for sure. I think when you listen to this record you will hear the party in the music.
Just grab your partner and dance for your life! All aboard!
– Kermit Ruffins