Kermit Ruffins, "Happy Talk"
Older fans of New Orleans music probably know Kermit Ruffins as a co-founder of the Crescent City's famed Rebirth Brass Band. Younger listeners, though, are more likely to recognize him from his recurring role on HBO's post-Katrina series "Treme," on which the singer/trumpeter plays himself. If Ruffins is bummed by that state of affairs, you wouldn't know it from "Happy Talk," his new album of big-band material. With exuberant renditions of such smiley delights as "High Hopes," "If I Only Had a Brain" (from "The Wizard of Oz") and the Rodgers & Hammerstein title track, "Happy Talk" is appropriately named. There's also an original-"I Got a Tremé Woman"-that suggests Ruffins knows the powers of cross-promotion. (Like the show, the song nods to a historic New Orleans neighborhood; last year he released "Livin' a Tremé Life.") Ruffins has been compared to Louis Armstrong for years, and that's unlikely to change here, particularly given his appealingly laid-back take on "La Vie en Rose." It's sweet stuff.