Jason Ricci Needs Help

My, what a good time for an album review

Writing about Jason Ricci has been on my agenda more or less since I started blogging on the Harp Surgery. It’s odd, really, that he doesn’t get much airtime here, considering he’s one of the most phenomenal players alive AND his unsolicited praise adorns our sidebar. In fact, the first gig review Wilf ever did for this website was Jason Ricci but that was years ago. It’s high-time we checked in on him again.

So today I’m finally going to review Jason’s album, Done with the Devil. What finally got me off the couch (figuratively anyway) was the news that he’s had a bad run of luck recently. We saw reports in June, and a great deal of speculation, that there had been some reshuffles in, or departures from, his (very very good) band, New Blood – and that all engagements were on hold ‘til August. On top of that his website is down, he’s in hospital with a punctured lung and no health insurance, and a series of financial calamities seem to have come calling at just the wrong time.

And because Jason Ricci is to 21st century harmonica what sliced bread was to sandwiches, I’ll make a suggestion of what you can do to help. (more…)

Gussow Calls It Quits?

Adam GussowSo long and thanks for all the chops. Elwood the Apprentice pays tribute to the end of an era.

All good things come to an end. That’s what Adam Gussow said when he finally, officially called it quits on his YouTube tutelage last week (Jason Ricci retires with him, but in this case even JR’s teaching is dwarfed by the sheer volume of Gussow’s output since he decided, February 22 2007, to “give it all away“).

As a blues pup, having suckled at the digital teat of Gussow’s YouTube channel for a good 18 months, I couldn’t help but feel wistful to see Gussow move on — like I was losing a little piece of myself. (more…)

Jason Ricci – Biscuits and Blues, San Francisco 5th Dec 2007

Prelude

Jason RicciDeeply disturbed by my encounter with Barry Manilow outside Tiffany’s this afternoon (literally!), I was in serious need of some rehabilitation. Mercifully the Copacabana was closed for staff training, so Biscuits and Blues it was to be – where, to my good fortune, harmonica wizard Jason Ricci would be weaving his magic. Plenty of good hoodoo was assured.

Actually, I had never heard of Jason before, but he came highly recommended by Dave Barrett (Harmonica Master Class) and I intended to correct my ignorance. Dave couldn’t make the gig, but Aki Kumar, one of his students, was at the bar nursing a beer. We made our acquaintances and Aki initiated my re-education. Jason, he informed me, is originally from Maine, but currently works out of Nashville. His influences include Pat Ramsey and Johnny Winter, while his style includes fast flowing third position patterns, overblows and licks drawn from jazz, rock, samba and swing.

Jason took the stage playing through what looked like a Shure SM57 or Unidyne mic, into a 4×10 tweed 59 Bassman. The sound he created was at times reminiscent of Johnny Mars in full flight. Avant garde in urban blues terms, it is not your classic Chicago crunch, but a synthesised variant. The tone is a challenge at first, in fact it is ‘in your face’, but you quickly acclimatise.

Musically and artistically, Jason is as challenging as his adopted harp tone. He has planted his flag on the ramparts of Fort Radical. His appearance and his persona is that of an edgy Punk. His energy is arresting. His playing is simply astonishing. If I had to credit specific harmonica players and bands for redefining the blues’ boundaries, Blues Traveler, Alabama 3, Little Axe, Lee Sankey, Lee Oskar and Sugar Blue readily come to mind. Jason Ricci vaults them all.

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