Jason Ricci: A Different Shade of Blue
JR: The only other award I remember winning other than like best instrumentalist in the paper etc....was the Mars Music Megastore International Harp Blow-Off, and that was really cool to win. It didn't really open a lot of doors, but it was fun, and really flattering to know they picked my solo out of a thousand-plus guys, or something, I was told.
AAJ: You have really made many of the "venerable vets" of the harmonica sit up and take note of your abilities. How does it feel to get so much attention so early in your musical career?
JR: It feels great. I don't feel, however, that it's that early in my career, maybe it is. I'm thirty now. I got offered a job with Sam Lay that I turned down when I was nineteen. It feels like I've been doing it forever. It's been a tough climb, as blessed as I have been, and I'm very grateful. I brought a lot of my troubles on myself, as well, and I feel it would have probably taken off even a little earlier if I hadn't been so hell-bent on living the "Blues Life. The other thing is, if you look back at those blues veterans' careers, most of them were all cutting albums on major labels in their teens and twenties. A lot of them like Junior Wells and [James] Cotton were touring with older cats like Muddy [Waters] when they were in their pre-teens. So I feel old already.
AAJ: You're right, but the idea that we have younger artists who follow this generation is reassuring, as many people have asked what the next generation of blues artists looks like, or whether there is one at all.
How many CDs have you recorded? On how many have you appeared? We see three available on your site. Where can we pick up the others?
JR: I have recorded five on my own. The first two on a small Memphis label run by Billy Gibson, called North Magnolia Records. One was self-titled, the other was called Down at the Juke. Those are unavailable and out-of-print for the most part. I'm pretty happy with that situation for obvious audible reasons. However, there is some songwriting and tolerable playing on both of those, but mainly I hate the vocals. The third was called Dedicated. I never released it because I held onto it too long and ended up hating it before it went to press. The fourth was the one I'm currently selling called Feel Good Funk. That was the first one that I rocked over blows on. The newest one is called Live at Checkers Tavern, and should be out by the time this is published. We are also working on another one right now as well that I know is going to be the one for me as far as songwriting and lyrics goes.
AAJ: With each song you do, you have a fresh, new voice. What is your inspiration for your new material?
JR: First of all, thanks! That's so sweet of you to say. Instrumentally these days it's the chords, melody, and rhythm of the song that dictate how I will interpret it and approach my harmonica solos. I like to listen to what the rest of the band is playing and try to find something in that mood, scale, or rhythm to get ideas for what to play on the song. I listen to all kinds of music so I draw inspiration from all kinds of music and instruments.
AAJ: Is there anyone whom you study? Old school? New school?
JR: I don't use the term study lightly. I think looking backwards [Old school] I probably only really studied Little Walter, George Smith, and Paul Butterfield.
As far as New school, I definitely studied Pat Ramsey as much or more than Little Walter, and Adam Gussow quite a bit too. He taught me how to over-blow.
Those two are big for me. I don't study anyone anymore at all....not because there isn't a wealth of stuff out there. If I was, it would be Howard Levy, but more because there's so much to study in the area of scales, modes and intervals, rhythmic patterns, and melody and harmony. Plus, I just don't have time and I feel I would really be shortchanging myself a true expressional, musical, and creative opportunity by doing that.
Those fundamentals [music theory] I just mentioned, I realize now, are blueprints and a means to a limitless, and constantly growing ability level that can aid in personal expression, whereas for me to just study one guy or a riff or something, that's all-it-is-and-ever-will-be is that guy's riff.
AAJ: Do you have any peers whom you admire? Harp? Non-harp?
JR: I admire Howard Levy, Carlos Del Junco, Pat Ramsey, Adam Gussow, Michael Peloquin, Paul Delay, Wade Schumann and Paul Linden these days.
AAJ: You have toured with the Kimbroughs and R.L. Burnside. Is there anyone you would like to tour with?
JR: I was in Junior's band so to speak,The Soul Blues Boys. The Soul Blues Boys are a group of people, mostly R.L.'s and Junior's kids, or whoever happens to be able to play and has the interest in backing up those guys when they play out in town [Holly Springs, Oxford, Senatobia, Mississippi]. There was no set band or set touring band. Fat Possum would not pay for the whole band as it was to go on tour with Junior or R.L. then, especially at that time.