In celebration of Basin Street Records’ 20th anniversary, label mates and trumpeters Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield join forces on A Beautiful World. These two mock adversaries, who used to hilariously battle it out musically at local clubs, stand as Basin Street’s most recorded artists and helped put the local label on the national map.
They share composing credits for the albums’ first cut, “Well, Alright,” which, not surprisingly, swings like crazy and is made complete with hand clapping, singing and Ruffins cheerleading—“Follow the umbrella!” It’s a big band number filled with saxophone, trombone and trumpet sections. The trumpeters kick things off with tenor saxophonist Ed “Sweetbread” Petersen soon standing up for an inspired solo and Trevarri Huff-Boone blowing some fine bari.
Well, alright, there are some 60, primarily very well-known New Orleans musicians on this album that boasts 26 cuts. Granted, there are several very short, spoken word interludes with several amusingly orated by actor Wendell Pierce. Nonetheless, that leaves room for a lot of music that varies greatly stylistically including the traditional sounds of the Ruffins and Mayfield penned “Just Playin’” that includes trumpeters Wendell Brunious, Leroy Jones, Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown and Andrew Baham. Here, Shannon Powell takes over on drums that are often occupied by Adonis Rose.
There is even a string septet on three numbers, including the title cut, “Beautiful World,” the name of which was an inspired way to pay tribute to trumpeter Louis Armstrong by referencing his hit “What a Wonderful World.” Haley Reinhart, perhaps best recognized as a finalist on American Idol, sings with passion the song written by Mayfield and arranged by trombonist Emily Fredrickson, who also adds some fine tonal accents. Cyril Neville, who is prominent on many of the album’s selections, contributes his voice in harmony.
Neville takes the lead on a highlight of the disc, “Allen Toussaint,” a jaunty number he co-wrote with Ruffins and Mayfield. It embraces all of what might be described as Toussaint-isms—the prominent rollicking piano here provided by Ronald Markham, the distinctive horn arrangements, that certain lilting rhythm and humor. After recalling his first time spotting Toussaint, Neville exclaims, “All I can say, when I saw that, is man, when I grow up I wanna be like that!” The song ingeniously heads out quoting the master’s lyrics from “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Workin’, goin’, workin’, goin’…”
Just as Basin Street Records has done for 20 years, A Beautiful World celebrates New Orleans and its rich community of musicians.