"I guess a life well lived is one that helps others and has some amount of service to others and/or to God or to whatever it is that makes you want to be a better cat."
Jason Ricci: The Music Veil of NOLA
New Orleans-based harmonica master Jason Ricci and his band, The Bad Kind will be released their debut solo album "Behind the Veil" by Gulf Coast Records, on September 29th. New album "Behind the Veil" was produced by Jason Ricci and Tony Daigle and recorded at Dockside Studio, Maurice, Louisiana. The band is Jason Ricci - diatonic and chord harmonica, vocals, and backup vocals; Ricci’s wife Kaitlin Dibble - vocals and backup vocals; Brent Johnson - guitar and backup vocals; Jack Joshua - double bass, electric bass, vocals, and backup vocals; and John Perkins - drums and backup vocals. Special guests include Joe Krown - piano and Hammond B3 organ; Gulf Coast labelmate Joanna Connor - guitar and Lauren Mitchell - backup vocals. Jason Ricci is one of the best and most imitated blues harmonica players of the 21st century. He picked up the instrument as a teenager when he started playing in a punk rock band. His journey started in earnest when he watched and later was mentored by legendary harmonica player Pat Ramsey in Memphis.
(Multiple award winning harmonica player, singer, songwriter Jason Ricci has played with, toured and recorded with some of the world’s most esteemed musical legends / Photo © by Jean Frank Photography)
As Ricci gigged and grew as a player he found work and support from the southern blues community. He lived and played with Junior and David Kimbrough in Mississippi and then worked as a sideman with Big Al and The Heavyweights for more than a year. In the late ‘90s, he formed Jason Ricci and New Blood, a band that toured around the world for more than a decade and released critically praised albums like Done with the Devil and Rocket Number 9. Ricci’s latest chapter is the New Orleans band Jason Ricci and The Bad Kind, which is influenced by the sounds of New Orleans and artists like The Meters and Doctor John. What defines Jason Ricci as an artist is the fearlessness with which he approaches his instrument and music and translates the hardships we all face into unforgettable music.
Special Thanks: Jason Ricci & Mark Pucci (Mark Pucci Media)
How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Fun question! I’m not sure there ever was a Blues or Rock Counterculture in my life...If there was I think I missed it... Playing with David Kimbrough, RL Burnside and Junior was definitely a cultural experience, but it wasn't part of my culture... I guess I learned from that the importance of being myself on and off stage... That’s all they were doing and all really any artist I TRULY loved was ever doing.. I’m still working on that. I think growing up loving punk music and skate rock and the skate culture definitely shaped my humor and attitude more than anything else - to try and actually answer your question. Ha!
How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music? What has remained the same about your music-making process?
I think maybe my biggest area of growth has been that I'm less concerned now with my "success" in the music business or in Babylon in general. I’m still tempted by it every day, but "life" has had a magical way of showing me, sometimes quite forcefully, what is really important. I haven't always listened to that voice and sometimes I doubted it all together, so that got me in more trouble. I'm not in as much trouble these days. The funny thing is that when we get better, the world seems better, and music is part of the world. (Photo: Jason Ricci & The Bad Kind, Dockside Studio, Louisiana)
"The highlight of my life was realizing that I was born to help others and that I was Loved and Forgiven by God as we all are and that the most important thing, I can do every day is in some way try to nurture that relationship. That small sacrifices make a big difference. The highlight of my career I'm sure is yet to come if I continue to pray to be a better person and more helpful to others."
Currently you’ve your debut solo release with Gulf Coast Records. How did that relationship come about? Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album "Behind the Veil" (2023)?
I've known Gulf Coast Records owner Mike Zito for at least twenty years. Mike's a really good person and has been a positive force in my life, and a lot of others too. When I really started growing spiritually, it was a lot easier for me to see that Mike was an important person to have in my life. The label itself is amazing. The team is great. It's the best record deal I've ever had. This is my second record with Mike after the Ricci/Krown release, City Country City, which Joe Krown and I were blessed to have Gulf Coast's help with. The new record with Jason Ricci and the Bad Kind, Behind the Veil, wouldn't have been possible without Zito and GCR. We're very lucky to be working with a record label run by a touring musician who really understands what we deal with day-to-day. God Bless You, Mike Zito and Gulf Coast Records.
What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
Mark Twain said: "The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why." The highlight of my life was realizing that I was born to help others and that I was Loved and Forgiven by God as we all are and that the most important thing, I can do every day is in some way try to nurture that relationship. That small sacrifices make a big difference. The highlight of my career I'm sure is yet to come if I continue to pray to be a better person and more helpful to others.
What's the balance in music between technique skills and soul/emotions? Why is it important that we preserve and spread the blues?
That balance is beautifully different for everyone so that certain art/music can appeal to different people or differently to the same people at different times in our lives. I think it depends on the song. The Blues doesn't need my help to survive, but it asks for my sincerity, and I hope every time I play, I get closer and closer to that form of purity. I'm happy to be considered in the same sentence, paragraph or book with "Blues music" and I know in time artists that make music that really matters to them will always matter to others. So, I try to do my homework, but still be myself whatever that is; "Blues, jazz, rock, funk, whatever...."
"Just be yourself. I’ve learned the hard way that my music career is NOT who I am, a musician isn’t even who I am, it’s only what I do. "Who I am": is a flawed but loved and forgiven Child of God and that ongoing experience its ups and downs...well that’s what I’m trying to sing and play about... Also get use to Ramen noodles and don't take checks." (Jason Ricci / Photo © by Marilyn Stringer)
What would you say characterizes NOLA music scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?
I would say the music here is its own thing. And not just like New Orleans jazz, or blues, or funk, brass band or zydeco. I mean we got all that and just listing all that, I’m thinking of so, so many artists, it’s incredible but it’s all got its own New Orleans idiosyncratic vibe intrinsic to this City.. It’s really amazing... I mean you got neighborhoods that got their own streetbeats/clavs/second lines depending on the tuba/sousaphone guy that’s currently the shit in that neighborhood. It’s pretty unique and we have more live gigs everyday than any other city in the world hands down, so add that. The vibe is pretty accepting, too, not really that competitive. Of course the cats that grew up there are and should be protective of the city, its gigs and culture and you know that’s a thing because I’m not from here originally but I respect it immensely. It’s the greatest place on Earth.
What do you love and what touched you from the sound of harmonica? What moment changed your career the most?
I like all the microtonal possibilities and it’s a hefty challenge to even play simple jazz on, so that fun too, It really reaches and surprises people when it’s done well because the bar for most listeners is pretty low – ha!. It was probably seeing James Cotton when I was 13 in Maine, then hearing Big Walter play “Trouble in Mind” that got me really serious. After that it was Little Walter, Butterfield, Al Wilson, George Smith, then modern cats like Pat Ramsey - probably my most audible influence, then cats like Adam Gussow and a lot of Howard Levy.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experiences in the music and life?
Just be yourself. I’ve learned the hard way that my music career is NOT who I am, a musician isn’t even who I am, it’s only what I do. "Who I am": is a flawed but loved and forgiven Child of God and that ongoing experience its ups and downs...well that’s what I’m trying to sing and play about... Also get use to Ramen noodles and don't take checks.
"That balance is beautifully different for everyone so that certain art/music can appeal to different people or differently to the same people at different times in our lives. I think it depends on the song. The Blues doesn't need my help to survive, but it asks for my sincerity, and I hope every time I play, I get closer and closer to that form of purity." (Jason Ricci & Joe Krown / Photo © by Marilyn Stringer)
Where does your creative drive come from? How do you wanted your previous album "City Country City" (2021) to affect people?
A lot of the creative drive of this record comes from New Orleans and Joe Krown, himself, and the songs he plays a lot at the Maple Leaf with his trios and with Walter Wolfman Washington. The title track, of course, is a beautiful and funky track by the band War, an outfit that has influenced me heavily since I was a teenager. We really changed it a lot for the organ trio format just by having the harp going all the time throughout the tune acoustic and amplified with a few effects. The rest is just Blues and of course all the organ trio music of the ‘60s: Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack all those people.
Do you have any stories about the making of "City Country City" (2021) album with Joe Krown?
Working with Joe Krown makes me feel like I’m finally beginning to be a musical grown-up. But we still have as much fun as little kids! Being linked up with a New Orleanian with Joe’s heavyweight history is truly a dream come true.
What is the impact of Blues (and music general) on the racial, human rights and socio-cultural implications?
Music should, does and can bring people together; other than saying that I’m gonna leave this one to the experts on Facebook.
What do you think is key to a life well lived? How important is/was activism in your life and inspirations?
I guess a life well lived is one that helps others and has some amount of service to others and/or to God or to whatever it is that makes you want to be a better cat. I’m not an activist at all for anything other than what I really KNOW about... I've personally ceased fighting. So if you're a queer kid with a crack or heroin problem or you're curious about how to play a few cool scales or arpeggios over some pretty easy chord changes I got you...Call me!
(Photo: Jason Ricci)
Comments are closed for this blog post