Jason Ricci

Jason Ricci
Done With The Devil

Eclecto Groove Records

By Art Tipaldi
August 2009

Little Walter let the hard times of his life stream through his harmonica while discovering avant garde approaches for the tiny Marine Band. Jason Ricci’s journey in music has been the same, to discover an original style where the ardors of his life plays out through the blows and draws of 10 holes.

Like Walter, Ricci has spent years creating an individualistic style that has touches of the masters, but more often is all Ricci. As the follow-up to his critically acclaimed, sonically charged, 2007 Rocket Number 9 album, the new record shows Ricci and his band relaxing in their the groove.

The CD opens with the title cut, where Ricci, who lived for a time with the Kimbroughs in the Mississippi hill country, raps his “walk away from the crossroad” argument in juke joint time. Ricci then easily slides into “Sweet Loving,” a catchy, pop anthem featuring pinpoint acoustic swells in concert with guitarist Shawn Starski’s picked notes.

When Ricci pulls out his chromatic for the introduction of “Broken Toy,” his autobiographical story of being gay in a straight world, one feels the intensity of Ricci’s painful life experiences. Here, Starski’s guitar is the perfect counterpoint to Ricci’s tortured vocals and his own emotional solo.

Ricci is no one trick harp man. “Ptryptophan Pterodactyl” finds Ricci hard blowin’ through the high holes. The speed cover of the Misfits’ punky “I Turned Into A Martian” features his lightning harmonica in this foot tapping genre blender. Willie Dixon’s “As Long As I Have You” is played as straight ahead, Chicago blues while Starski’s “How It Come To Be” is back porch, acoustic guitar, harp bass, and drum brushes.

Drummer Ed Michaels takes the lead on his “Keep The Wolf From My Door,” a deep blues with Ricci finding cutting edge tones on every draw. Add the over the top guitar solo of guest Shawn Kellerman, and this becomes one of the CD’s most powerful statements. His soaring harmonica work on the seminal “Afro Blue” is nine minutes of trippy, acid jazz energy.

By the time Ricci, Starski, and Phil Wolfe on Hammond come back together for the final minute, they have explored every musical nuance jazz demands. To finish, Ricci smoothes out Sun Ra’s rough, Afro-Cuban “Enlightment” with a soft, appealing instrumental arrangement where his polyphonic harmonica produces a sweet, almost carnival, revel.

Six records later, tours up and down the blues highway, and a dedication to originality has put Ricci front and center as one of today’s blues innovators.


<- back to Features