Burnside and Nick Curran. In 1999, he won the Mars National Harmonica Contest, and began playing with Keith Brown. In 2000, Jason 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, he started his own band Jason Ricci & New Blood in 2002. Blues, Rock, Funk, Jazz Fusion, Eastern, Punk, Carnival, Psychedelic, Performance Art and more are all regularly attached descriptions of the band Jason Ricci and New Blood.
Defying category, without defying the techniques, authenticity and disciplines of any one of those category is a rare and dangerous high wire act this band has been balancing expertly year after year, award after award, show after show, fan after fan and album after album. New Blood’s repertoire includes standard-length songs, epic improvisational jams, sharp original lyrics, as well as melodic instrumental pieces. The setlist changes every night and may feature any of the dozens of songs in the band’s catalog, including some classic blues, jazz, and funk covers like “Cissy Strut” (The Meters), “Get Up, Stand Up” (Bob Marley), “Shake Your Hips” (Slim Harpo), and “Turkish Coffee” (Herbie Mann). Jason encourages audience taping and has many shows available for free download at Archive.org. These shows have been downloaded by thousands of music fans around the world, according to the site statistics.
Jason Ricci & New Blood’s live shows may best be described by Blake Taylor, writer for Cincinnati City Beat: “As a lover of live music, a JRNB show is absolutely exhilarating. Imagine the best virtuoso-filled “jam band” you’ve ever seen (think early ‘90’s Phish, old Flecktones, Allmans, Robert Randolph, Derek Trucks, etc.) and then double the energy and stage presence.” Jason Ricci and New Blood have been working the Blues, Jam and Rock circuits for over seven years, averaging some 300 shows a year all over the world. Ricci on his own is consistently considered and referred to in print, with awards and in harmonica circles as one of the best and most important harmonica players to have ever picked up the instrument. Shawn Starski (Guitar) is garnering similar attention alike with Guitar Player Magazine naming him within "The Top Ten Hottest New Guitar Players" in 2008. New Blood's Rhythm section as well holds equal footing musically with Ricci and Starski on stage.
Bass and drum solos abound regularly within their two to four hour non stop sets. Todd "Buck Weed" Edmunds (Bass, Tuba, Double Cass, Sousaphone, Bass Harmonica) is a jazz master and devout musicologist. In between gigs with Ricci and New Blood Edmunds is just as likely to be found playing upright bass for a Ellington Big Band, or Tuba for a New Orleans Brass ensemble as he is likely to be subbing on electric bass for a Norwegian black math metal band. Ed Michaels (Drums) has been with the band over a year his background includes trap set drums, formal East Indian Tabla study as well as other hand drums and world percussion disciplines.
Michaels has toured with Roy Rogers, Alvin Young Blood Hart and Commander Cody among others. Every member of Jason Ricci and new Blood is a soloist, contributing songwriter, and vocalist. Although the openly gay Ricci may appear and often sound as unorthodox as his punk and gothic inspired clothing and hair make no mistake Ricci spent plenty of time firmly rooted in the blues putting together a blues pedigree that would leave many "traditional blues" players looking as authentic as an American Idol contestant. By the age of 21 Ricci had won the Sonny Boy Blues Society contest, performed at The King Biscuit Blues Festival, lived and played with Big Bad Smitty, David Kimbrough, and RL Burnside as a member of those bands throughout clubs and real black/African American owned and run juke joints throughout the south namely Mississippi. Before embarking on a journey beyond the blues inspired by ex Johnny Winter Side man and now deceased Pat Ramsey, Ricci was a devout student of the traditional harmonica masters like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and George Smith. In 2004 for three weeks the bands hard worked paid off when a bootlegged recording from a Jersey club (Mexacali Blues) was the most down loaded live show in the world over the Grateful Dead, Phish and other popular jam bands clocking over 21,000 thousand down loads in two weeks.
The same year they released a live album titled "Live at Checkers Tavern." In 2005 Jason Ricci won the Muddy Waters Award for most promising new talent and later in 2006 the band released the CD: "Blood On The Road". "Blood On The Road" was an independently produced CD that topped the XM radio charts as a top ten "Pick For Click" for a solid month and sold over 12,000 copies from the stage alone. The Independent CD "Blood On The Road" was listed in the Mercury News as the top ten albums of 2007 along side Green Day and Prince. 2007 saw the band nominated for band of the year by Blues Wax Magazine and had the group expanding into Canada and Europe. In 2008 Jason Ricci and New Blood were signed by Rand Chortkoff to Eclecto Groove Records (a subsidiary of Delta Groove Records) Releasing their first in stores everywhere album "Rocket Number Nine." Rocket Number Nine was produced by multiple Grammy award winning producer John Porter (The Smiths, Los Lonely Boys, Ryan Adams etc.) The Album interweaved Ricci's autobiographical political, drug related and spiritual themes with traditional blues, funk, rock, and eastern music.
"Rocket Number Nine" climbed the Billboard Blues Charts to arrive and stay at Number Four for multiple weeks. The record also again made the "Pick to Click" top ten on XM and Sirius Radio charts and was chosen for "Album of the Year" by Gibson Guitars. Reviews began to pour in heaping praise on the band’s bewildering cache of talent and spectacularly breathtaking arrangements that rewarded the adventurous listener with a revelatory auditory experience that blasted them straight up into the stratosphere. Ricci landed a six-page feature article in the 2008 Feb/March issue of Blues Revue magazine and Living Blues (known for their strict coverage of the purely black traditional aspect of the art form), even heralded Jason as “one of the most innovative young harmonica players since Paul deLay and Charlie Musselwhite.” In addition, New Blood veteran Shawn Starski was named one of the Top Ten Hottest New Guitarists by a reader’s poll in the 2008 June issue of Guitar Player Magazine. Ricci has always been an in demand studio musician and 2008 saw guest appearances on Albums with Cedric Burnside and Lighting Malcolm's CD: "Two Man Wrecking Crew", Motor City Josh's: "Tribute to Howling Wolf", and Walter Trout's CD "The Outsider" among others.
Later in 2008 Ricci would join Walter in Europe on tour with his band The Radicals for some critically acclaimed shows and a partnership that continues today. In 2009 Jason Ricci and New Blood finished up work on their latest offering for the Eclecto Groove label titled "Done With The Devil". This is their most ambitious album yet produced by Grammy Award winner Phil Wolfe (Alabama) featuring ten original songs by the band and two covers spanning the distance between Sun Ra and the Misfits. The CD like Rocket Number Nine is an even greater expansion on an eclectic mix of Rock, Blues, Jazz, fusion, folk, funk, eastern, carnival, punk and jazz often within one tune or solo for that matter. 2009 has Ricci and company up for a second nomination for "Band of the Year" by Blues Wax Magazine, Jason already won The Blues Critic's award for "Harmonica Player of the Year", and he also stole a literary award for "Article of the Year" from Blues Wax Magazine.
Additionally Ricci was nominated for the first time for the B.M.A. (Formerly Handy) Award for "Best Instrumentalist: Harmonica". Jason received "Best Harmonica Player" at the May 6, 2010 Blues Music Awards. By January 2011, Jason had relocated to New Orleans, and assembled a new band, Approved By Snakes, with guitarist John Lisi. After a long period of recovery after pneumonia and other personal problems (he was arrested in 2011 and went to prison for the second time) that took more than 2 years, Jason is back touring the US circuit. Ricci has had a lot of the troubles common for musicians in the blues (and many other genres).
He's had two periods of drug addiction, and two periods of incarceration, the last of which recently ended. He has also been treated for bi-polar disorder. Jason is on tour early in 2013 for the first time in a long time. He is hardly recognizable anymore after he added about 120 pounds to his body weight and gave up on his 'playboy' look.
"The last three years were a doozy," Ricci said. "I had fun for the first year and a half, then it started to get difficult, then I spent the last year incarcerated." He laughed. "That's how I would sum up the last three years." Reuben Williams, his manager, explained the situation. Ricci is one of the best blues harmonica players around, he said, and Williams (who is also Tab Benoit's manager, and a mover and shaker in the blues world) just couldn't let him vanish into oblivion.
"We did an intervention on him. Now, he's a four-star person," Williams said. Sending Ricci on tour - probation allows him to tour for 12 days at a time - is like sending him out into the "danger zone" of temptation, Williams realizes, "but he's stronger now," he said. His new band - from which only Gino Matteo is a permanent piece - is amazing! Truth is geniuses always know how to find close friends with similar interests and skills. Jason Ricci gigs are more rare nowadays compared back to the years when he played with New Blood but he seems to matured a lot in the meantime.
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