Jason Ricci is an American harmonica player and singer. In addition to his solo albums, Ricci has appeared as a guest harmonica player on albums with Johnny Winter, Nick Curran, Ana Popovic, Walter Trout, Cedric Burnside, The Mannish Boys and Joe Louis Walker among others. Ricci was named "Best Harmonica Player" at the 2010 Blues Music Awards.
Raised in Portland, Maine, Jason Ricci is the son of Joseph Ricci (co-founder of Elan School), and his first wife Cheryl Benton. He has an older brother Noah, while shortly after Jason's birth, his parents divorced. Ricci started playing music in punk bands at the age of 14. After discovering a love of the harmonica and Blues music, he turned his attention in that direction. In 1995, Ricci moved from Portland to Memphis, TN, where shortly thereafter he placed first in the Sonny Boy Blues Society contest at 21 years of age. Later that same year Ricci recorded his first album, Jason Ricci.
In Memphis, Ricci began playing with David Malone Kimbrough, son of Junior Kimbrough, and soon was a part of the bands of both Kimbroughs and was sitting in with R. L. Burnside. This also marked a dark period for Ricci, as drug addiction led to a one-year stint in jail.
In 1999, Ricci won the Mars National Harmonica Contest, and began playing with Keith Brown, later recording with him as well. In 2000, he received a two-page write up in Blues Access magazine by Adam Gussow (harmonica player for Satan and Adam) saying:
- "I am convinced he along with New Jersey's Dennis Gruenling is one of the best harmonica players of his generation."
After 15 months with Big Al and the Heavyweights, and a brief period of living in Raleigh, North Carolina, Ricci started his own band, Jason Ricci & New Blood, in 2002. This band features Shawn Starski, who, in June 2008, was named by Guitar Player magazine as one of the "Top Ten Hottest New Guitarists." In 2005, Ricci was honored with the Muddy Waters Most Promising New Blues Artist award.
In 2007 Ricci and New Blood were signed to Eclecto Groove, a new subdivision of Delta Groove Productions. His first album with the label, titled Rocket Number Nine, was released October 23, 2007. Later in 2009 the band recorded Done With The Devil for the same Label. Done With The Devil signaled a new direction in Ricci's musical inspiration, as his study of the occult strongly influenced the writing on the album. The band as a whole has been nominated for Blues Band of the Year three times by Blues Wax magazine. Ricci won the Blues Critic Award for Harmonica Player of the Year (2008) and was nominated for a Blues Music Award for Harmonica Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010.
By January 2011, Ricci had relocated to New Orleans, and assembled a new band, Approved By Snakes, with guitarist John Lisi.
Ricci received "Best Harmonica Player" at the May 6, 2010 Blues Music Awards.
Ricci is openly gay. This has been a professional obstacle as well as an opportunity for Ricci to challenge both gay stereotypes and traditional blues expectations:
"The [gay] community doesn't like drum sets and guitars and actual live music. They're used to lip-synching, and dudes in dresses, and Madonna, and Cher, and techno beats. Those are the things that kept me from coming out earlier. I felt like I had nothing in common with the gay community, and I still don't feel like I have a lot in common with the community. I'm hoping that changes, but the majority of their icons are press-friendly little Mickey Mouse-doll figureheads that you're more likely to see on a show redecorating somebody's house than onstage at a blues festival...When I came out of the closet as a gay white male from an upper-middle-class suburban home, I came out as not just gay, but as a white guy, and as a guy who likes punk, and as a guy who didn't come from total poverty, and all those things that we associate with being 'blues' things. And when I did that, I wanted to sing about that. I wanted to write songs about what my life was like, and I wanted to use terminology that was modern."
Ricci's openness with being gay has occasionally been a difficult issue in the traditionally conservative blues world, as he's been "disinvited" from a number of venues and events.
- 1995: Jason Ricci
- 1997: Down At The Juke
- 2001: Feel Good Funk
- 2004: Live At Checkers Tavern
- 2005: Her Satanic Majesty Requests Harmonica Music (compilation)
- 2006: Blood on the Road
- 2007: Rocket Number 9
- 2009: Done with the Devil
- 2010: Down That Road... (compilation)
- Sharp, David (January 30, 2001). "Racetrack owner Joseph Ricci dies; Millionaire, 54, ran twice for governor". bangordailynews.com. Bangor Daily News (Maine).
- Bangor News, 'Son Challanges Ricci Trust Terms', February 2, 2004
- Court documents regarding the case of the contested estate of Jospeh Ricci, (accessed December 16, 2014.
- Bledsoe, Wayne “Out Gay Bluesman is opening Ears and Minds” . Scripps News, November 28, 2007
- Michelle Kiser. "Jason Ricci: Intrepid Artists International, Inc". Intrepidartists.com. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
- Bledsoe, Wayne . “Out Gay Bluesman is opening Ears and Minds” . Scripps News, November 28, 2007
- Michelle Kiser. "Jason Ricci : Intrepid Artists International, Inc". Intrepidartists.com. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
- Arnold, J.W.. “Jason Ricci Bringing His Blues Harmonica Magic to K.C.". Camp KC April 30, 2009
- "Past Blues Music Awards". Blues.org. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
- "Jason Ricci, Country Fried and more music in New Orleans for January 8". NOLA.com. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
- "The Blues Music Awards 2010 - And The Winner Is...". Theguitarbuzz.com. 2010-05-07. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
- Beckers, Ludo, "Interview: Jason Ricci", Back to the Roots, retrieved 2007-10-24
- Long, Autumn . “Jason Ricci Gets His Rocks Off” . Blues Revue Magazine . February/March 2008
- Wenzel, John, “Music Q&A: Jason Ricci” . Get Real Denver . December 20, 2007