B1 was very fortunate to have a long overdue visit from Jason Ricci last night, complete with accompaniment from the incredible Nick Moss.
Jason played some to illustrate points throughout the night, but he did a lot of talking, stepping through his music career and inspirations. Starting with exposure to Ronnie Earl in Maine, the heavy harmonica influence he carried a long time was that of Madison Slim who leaned heavily on him to think and play traditionally.
Nonetheless, Ricci landed in Memphis where he met Pat Ramsey, who he describes as "everything Madison Slim told me I'm not allowed to dig." Jason stepped into and out of the overblow thing, even giving up harp at one point to play tenor sax because he wanted to play those songs and those notes. But as he said, "the tenor didn't stick", so exposure to players like Adam Gussow and Pat Ramsey put him on the track of the sound on his first CD.
Jason told the story of shipping that first disc out to five harp players he wanted feedback from. One who took a lot of pushing to get response was Paul deLay, who finally said very honestly, "Why are you so afraid of it sounding like a harmonica?"
So next came gradual acceptance of using some tongue blocking and playing chords when he was in New Orleans, letting the harp do things it does well. He says he went through a period of being a "closet tongue-blocker". He knew guys like Joe and Dennis were on to something but he didn't want to let them know he knew. Looks like his time in Chicago with Nick Moss heralds a return to some traditional blues thinking.
He emphasized repeatedly that he defines making music as "melody, rhythm and harmony", tenets he imparts to students and keeps forefront in his own mind. Joe asked what mistakes he sees in harp players and he replied:
- lick-based learning
- trying to impress the instructor
- tension and hunched shoulders
- playing from one's ego
Catch Jason teaching at the Harmonica Collective in Indianapolis, April 28-May 2. On tap this year are Jason, Winslow Yerxa, Mitch Kashmar, Richard Sleigh, Buzz Krantz and PT Gazell.
You can find Jason at his website, Mooncat.org, where he offers Skype lessons, and he'll be hitting the road on tour soon, so catch him in a show and tell him B1 sent ya!
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It was great to have a packed house to see Jason and Nick, and B1 appreciates all the donations made and CDs purchased in support of this evening. Thank you!
- No Shoji next week - keep your song plans "reasonable" in the Performance class as the band will be missing its superstar.
Juke, On Ice!!!
Hey, our friend Mick Zaklan wrote to say he caught Wilmette native Jason Brown skating at the US National Skating Championships this week to Little Walter's Juke! He nailed the routine, took first, and exposed lots of viewers on NBC to Little Walter and the harmonica. Thanks, Jason!
Lucky 3 Blues Band Release
B1 friend and harp player, Frank Raven, visited last night and his band the Lucky 3 Blues Band has a new CD out - Blues Time. Nice work Frank and folks, go here to order your copy.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew