Vaughan’s is an out-of-the-way neighborhood bar in the Bywater neighborhood just across the Industrial Canal from the Lower 9th Ward, and the last time I was there, the great Kermit Ruffins himself was playing on a Thursday night to a standing room only crowd. Ruffins gave up that gig not long after, and Vaughan’s has tried a succession of different bands and groups since then on Thursdays, which is the only night that the bar features live music, but Ruffins’ shoes are hard to fill. However, Travis “Trumpet Black” Hill, though hardly as well-known as Ruffins, is a brilliantly-gifted trumpet player with the mastery of his instrument and the self-assuredness to attempt to fill the slot, and does a good job at it, ably backed by his band, known as the Heart Attack. Hill’s repertoire is younger and less traditional than Kermit’s, but in some ways, that’s a good thing. After my arrival, his first set included a funked-out version of the brass band standard “Always There”, and a far more traditional reading of the classic “Backatown Blues”. Such versatility should stand Hill in good stead, and I suspect we’ll be hearing far more from him going forward. As for Vaughan’s, unsuspecting tourists should not be fooled by the signs out front. The bar does not offer po-boys, although they do have red beans and rice on Thursdays.
Kermit Ruffins performs for friends, family and fans at Vaughan’s in the Bywater, New Orleans, 7/5/12
Vaughan’s has the look of an old neighborhood bar, but legendary jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins has made it famous. Every Thursday night, tourists flock to the usually-quiet neighborhood to see Ruffins at his regular weekly gig, and occasionally to eat his famous barbecue from a truck out front. The crowds have grown even larger since the television series Treme has made Kermit Ruffins even more well-known. 7/5/12