Jacon Ricci, Blues Harmonica

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Jason Ricci, Blues Harmonicar
Jason Ricci

"I can do that!

By Jason Ricci

I remember my mother bringing me to see James Cotton at a club in Portland, Maine where I grew up. Portland is a true breeding ground for authentic blues men. I was  fifteen years old, everyone there was over 21 mostly late forty's and mostly intoxicated as well. The show was incredible and that evening Cotton was a stellar performer and harmonica player.He was arguably at the peak of his career (circa 1989), however I remember thinking arrogantly through much of it: "I can do that, or I will be able to that", until he ended his show and the audience roared and the legendary long time Muddy Waters side man reemerged from back stage with his band for the encore.

The song they did was a minor key blues ballad called "Black Night". Halfway through this already haunting ballad on the downbeat, the band broke the volume down to a whisper with one stunning, life changing, snare crack. At that point Cotton stepped away from his microphone and began to sing and play without the aid of any amplification to the formerly festive,  drunk and raucous audience, now ominously quiet without  the aid of artificial amplification. It was at that  moment that I realized that on one level there was no difference between the artist and his/her audience.  Through the expression of his pain, joy, anger and  unapolagetic sexuality we were all united in our  humanity and within that unity we were all silent, silent except of course for the ghostly wailings of James Cotton's blues harp. I also realized that was one harmonica riff I hadn't learned yet and maybe couldn't.  I hadn't suffered enough.

When asked: "How did a white boy from Maine get the blues?" I often answer: "If you don't have the blues when you start playing them you will after ten years of trying to make a living at it." My musical and personal mentor Pat Ramsey, a real unsung  hero of the blues told me long ago:" This is the only business I know where raw talent, dedication, perseverance and hard work guarantee you absolutely nothing.

Jason Ricci has won multiple blues and harmonica contests, traveled the entire U.S. and over seas playing blues and jazz music, has played as a member of the bands: Jnr Kimbrough and the Soul Blues Boys, R.L. Burnside, The Big Bad Smitty Band, Keith Brown, and many more. He is currently one of the few pioneers of the jazz-worlds "overblowing" technique which transforms the diatonic harmonica into a fully chromatic three octave instrument. He is currently on tour with his own band Jason Ricci and New Blood featuring Shawn Starski on guitar.

See www.jasonricci.com for more details.

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from the bookTouched By the Blues

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