Jason Ricci is one of the most popular harmonica players on the planet today. Listed in almost every top ten list of players on the internet today Jason Ricci is a polarizing force always in the spotlight and on the tips of critics, artists and fans tongues everywhere. Through two-plus decades of endless touring, TV appearances, recordings, and the internet Jason Ricci's style of playing is so revolutionary and influential that there exists an entire younger generation of players imitating his music, clothes, gear, and even stage presence.
Nicknamed "Moon Cat" (a street name he once used in Nashville and New Orleans to avoid police detection) Jason has been an almost constant force for decades in the studio, festivals, club dates, and press. Love him or hate him, through performing, singing, songwriting, teaching, harmonica playing and activism in the fields of L.G.B.T., mental health, and addiction, it is not an overstatement that this young, white, queer, skateboarding, punk rock-loving, multiple convicted felony having Moon Cat from Maine is currently changing world through music and education.
Jason Ricci was born in Portland Maine in 1974, the son of Joe Ricci, a controversial Italian educator, activist, politician, and businessman. Throughout his childhood Jason's father was often in the national news, frequently in a negative light. Ricci's father was the son of professional boxer Frank "Bamboo" Ricci and Jason's own father Joe was the story of a self-made man who climbed out of poverty, incarceration and the streets of Red Hook Brooklyn to become a well-known Maine icon in the fields of youth intervention, activism, education, harness racing and politics. Like Jason, his father was usually either loved or hated. To many, he was a hero through his work with addicts and problem youth at Joe Ricci's own controversial and often criticized Elan School, to others Jason's father was a criminal, a murderer, connected with organized crime, gambling, and drugs. Jason mother and father separated when he was four and he lived his whole childhood with his mother
Cheryle and his younger brother Noah. Jason's youth was not easy, he was often involved in fights at school surrounding newspaper headlines involving his father and both him and his mother were frequently in and out of mental health care facilities in Maine. Jason was often kicked out of the house by his mother and he spent some of his teens in youth programs, on the streets, and in shelters in Portland Maine. When Ricci's mother Cheryle could get him off his skateboard she would try and introduce him to blues and jazz music and brought him to see most the live shows coming to Portland.
By 17 years old he had heard and met most of the famous blues musicians alive at that time. Ricci's mother constantly encouraged and supported him with music, by buying teenage Moon Cat music lessons, records, a guitar, and harmonicas as well exposing him directly to the culture of live music. by the age of 14, Ricci was playing in local punk bands and flirting with blues and jazz
music in school and at parties. Ultimately Jason was kicked out of high school and left home at 17 years old. Through a clause in his parents’ divorce agreement, Jason an animal lover, got his GED and went to college in Boise Idaho to study Wild Life Management. In Boise Jason Ricci was a fixture at a local club called the Blues Bouquet and thanks to the club's owner pianist Ken Harris, and art patron/car saleswoman Dara Longobardi, and a band called "Streetwise", a young Moon Cat started regularly playing with and hanging out with many of the worlds touring blues bands. It's worth noting that in Maine Ricci grew up and was friends with Nick Curran and in Boise, Jason was often hanging out with John Nemeth two celebrated Blues musicians of today.
Ultimately in 1994 he quit college and moved to Memphis Tennessee to try and study with ex-Johnny Winter sideman Pat Ramsey as well as forge a career of his own. 1995 was a big year for Jason at 21 years of age Ricci had won The Sonny Boy Blues Society contest beating a then relatively unknown Michael Burks and represented Arkansas and in the then budding I.B.C. (International Blues Challenge) finals. That same year Jason played the King Biscuit Blues Festival with former members of Ike Turner's band and was a featured story on that night's Memphis nightly news. Ricci was
continuing to apprentice under Pat Ramsey while playing with Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside, and living and playing with David Malone Kimbrough in Potts Camp Mississippi. Occasionally crashing on fellow harp player and friend Billy Gibson's couch, Billy went on to produce two records for Jason in Memphis for the North Magnolia Music Label featuring members of the Kimbrough family, Enrico Creivellaro, Eric Deaton and Bobby Little (Earl Hooker drummer).
Jason relocated to Jackson Mississippi and played in bands with King Edward, Eddie Cotton, Big Bad Smitty and much of the famous Subway Lounge crew in and around the Southern States. After a few misdemeanor arrests in Mississippi in 1998 Ricci was admitted to treatment in Florida for drug addiction. He later left treatment, was convicted of felony strong-arm robbery and served a year
and a day in a jail/boot camp drug program followed by three years of Florida probation. After his release and during his probation a now sober Moon Cat played, worked and often recorded locally with Florida notables like the Nucklebusters, Keith Brown, Joel Dasilva, JP Soars, Albert Castiglia. Damon Fowler, Josh Smith and more.
In 1999 Ricci won the Mars Music National Harmonica Contest beating out 50 other national state finalists. Jason remains largely connected to the Florida blues scene today.
In 2001 Jason Ricci made his national debut as a sideman with the then relentlessly touring New Orleans Band Big Al and The Heavy Weights. With Al Lauro, Jason appeared on the Emril Legassi show for the food network and played over 400 shows all over the United States. In 2003 Jason started his own nationally touring band New Blood. Mercury News writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Brad Kava sited Ricci's band as being in the top ten best live shows of 2005 alongside Prince, Green Day and Government Mule. In 2004 Jason came out as gay/bisexual or queer as he calls himself currently and was often interviewed on that subject. He was the first male blues performer in history to openly acknowledge his own homosexuality in print. In 2007 Jason signed with Randy Chortkoff's Eclecto Groove/Delta Groove records and released two albums for that label.
Ricci's second album "Done With The Devil" was nominated for a Blues Music Award for "best blues rock album" of the Year and in 2010 after a previous nomination Ricci then won the Blues Music Award for "best harmonica player"; other nominees that year in that category were Kim Wilson, Rick Estrin, Billy Branch and Mark Hummel. In addition to fronting his own band, Jason also continued to do smaller tours as a sideman with notables like Nick Moss, Mike Zito, and Walter Trout. Additionally, Jason was a frequent guest at numerous Harmonica related educational retreats and started a free YouTube channel with hundreds of free harmonica lessons and over 15,000 subscribers.
Jason's use of Jazz harmonica superhero Howard Levy's "Over Blow" technique (a technique allowing a diatonic harmonica to become chromatic) made him one of the first harmonica players in blues music playing chromatically. This style of playing got Ricci significant attention and work with other artists (jazz, rock, blues) who needed the instrument to play all twelve notes or change keys on their recordings. Alongside "overblowing" Ricci’s pioneering use of effects peddles previously only used with guitars made Jason an extremely talked about musician often celebrated by youth and often
hated by purists. His punk rock appearance, sexuality, lightning fast harmonica speeds often compared to violinist/composer Paganini and electronic explorations were all polarizing elements of any Ricci show challenging all audiences.
From 2000 to 2010 Jason Played over 3,500 shows all over the world, won numerous other awards and accolades not listed and established himself as a harmonica hero, educator, G.L.B.T. advocate, harmonica sideman to the stars and blues headliner.
The years between 2010 and 2013 were another dark period for Jason. After 12 years of continuous sobriety Ricci relapsed, lost his band, record label, and booking agency. Other than mostly local gigs in New Orleans clubs with John Lisi, Chief Monk Boudreaux, and ex-Pat Ramsey guitarist Dave Renson, Jason had all but disappeared from the music world. Many thought he would never return or would die. In 2011 the harmonica legend was arrested while visiting Bloomington and served a little less than a year in an Indiana Jail for felony assault on a police officer (a crime Ricci insists he was innocent of), he was also charged with burglary, theft and numerous other misdemeanor charges that he doesn't deny. After his incarceration during his six-year Indiana probation, Ricci sobered up for the second time and sought treatment for Bi-Polar Disorder, addiction to crack cocaine, heroin, alcohol and other drugs. Stuck in Indiana unable to tour for a few years, Jason started a harmonica teaching convention in Indianapolis with "Harmonica For Dummies" author, harmonica player and educator Winslow Yerxa called the Harmonica Collective which over the years featured such teachers/players as RJ Mischo, Mitch Kashmir, and Magic Dick.
In 2013 Ricci was called by Johnny Winter to be featured alongside Eric Clapton, Ben Harper, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Perry, Dr John, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer, and others as a featured artist for Winter's subsequent farewell release "Step Back". Johnny Winter's last album featuring Jason won a Grammy Award in 2015 for "Best Blues Album".
2015 was another significant year for a moon Cat. Ricci was invited by Paul Shaffer and The Rock and The Roll Hall of Fame to perform at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony to induct his harmonica hero Paul Butterfield. At The Hall of Fame Ceremony tribute to Butterfield, Jason Ricci played with Tom Morello, Zac Brown and The Paul Shaffer Orchestra. The event was televised via HBO to over 12 million plus viewers. After the hall of fame performance, Ricci released a collaborative acoustic CD titled "Dirty Memory". The CD topped the charts and received rave reviews. Dirty Memory's departure from Ricci's very, hard and electric sound was a shocking and necessary tool in establishing Jason as a well-rounded blues performer, serious about the roots of blues music and harmonica. JJ Appleton and Jason Ricci currently tour all over and are working on a follow-up release. Maybe the biggest event of the year was the formation of Jason Ricci and the Bad Kind with old
friend and New Orleans’s guitarist John Lisi. The Bad Kind is a Moon Cat's five-piece band and is currently Ricci's primary touring, recording and writing outfit hitting every state and much of Europe and beyond. In 2016 Jason was invited to tour with Mark Hummel's Blues Harmonica Blow Out featuring Anson Funderburgh and Charlie Baty. Additionally, a Moon Cat is part of Harmonicon a touring showcase featuring Sugar Blue, Billy Branch and Ricci with Sugar Blue's Band. Harmonicon and working with Branch and Blue is a dream come true for Ricci and is the pinnacle of any festival line up anywhere.
Like any real bluesman, Ricci has paid his dues directly at the feet of the masters’ year after year. Whether it be on stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 12 Million people or at Junior Kimbrough's juke joint in Holly Springs Mississippi for 30 locals, Ricci has been there. His life has seen some of the greatest highs the world can offer and some of the hardest lows any human being can endure. From the highest awards and honors the music industry can bestow upon any artist to the most deplorable lows of homelessness, male prostitution, mental institutions and jails Jason Ricci has experienced both sides at length and is here, playing his harmonica, living, singing, writing, and telling us all: what it was like, what happened and what it's like now.
“For me, playing the blues is all about expressing emotions,” guitarist and vocalist Seth Rosenbloom insists. “What’s always drawn me to the genre is the fact that it allows for an extraordinarily wide range of emotion. That, I think, is the key to making great music overall, and great blues in particular.”
Rosenbloom knows of what he speaks. Hailed by The Boston Globe as “a searing blues-rock guitarist,” and The Noise Boston as a musician who “makes his guitar growl and has a voice to match,” he’s been compared to “a slightly younger and rawer version of Matt Schofield ,” by the Blues PowR blog, which also praised him for “his gravelly, forceful vocals and stinging guitar work.”
Those assessments were affirmed this past year, when Rosenbloom made his bow with his debut self-titled EP. Now, with the release of his first full length effort, Keep On Turning (January 18, 2019), he shows again why he has been referred to as the future of blues guitar. An assertive and authoritative artist and auteur, he demonstrates confidence and credence with a set of songs that sounds every bit like a new set of standards. He executes the material in ways that are both riveting and embracing, with his dynamic delivery ensuring an emphatic impression.
Throughout the album, Rosenbloom commands center stage, with able support from Travis Carlton on bass (Robben Ford, Scott Henderson), Scott Kinsey (Tribal Tech) on keys and Gary Novak (George Benson, Chick Corea) on drums. Produced by Josh Smith, a world renowned blues guitarist in his own right, Keep On Turning was recorded at Smith’s Flat V Studios in Reseda, California.
Although firmly entrenched in the blues, Keep On Turning reflects a distinct diversity in the range of sentiment, as expressed in a selection of songs composed by Rosenbloom both on his own and with co-writer Sonya Rae Taylor. He also includes classic covers of B.B. King, Elmore James and Freddie King. From the emphatic wail of “Keep On Turning” and “Right About Now,” to the drive and determination of “Crawling Back” and “I Can’t Help It,” Rosenbloom’s passion and authenticity are on display throughout the album.“
This album is the culmination of everything I’ve ever aspired to musically,” Rosenbloom reflects. “I really wanted the album to represent the diversity that the blues has to offer, and I’m so pleased to have worked with such a wonderful producer and group of musicians who helped bring it to fruition.”
Then again, Rosenbloom’s no stranger to making music. Born into a musical family and raised in Waltham, Massachusetts, he began playing classical violin as a child and subsequently took up guitar at age eleven. Initially inspired by the music of Elvis and The Beatles, he earned a performance merit scholarship from Berklee College of Music by the time he was 16.
After spending a few years as an active sideman and in demand clinician, Rosenbloom stepped into the spotlight with the release of his self-titled EP in September 2017. He supported the recording with a string of tour dates up and down the East Coast, demonstrating at each stop his clear commitment to his craft and his ability to enthrall his audiences with his verve and versatility.
Rosenbloom has further expanded his reputation by spending much of this year on the road as well, introducing himself to his newly enthusiastic audiences. Whether demonstrating his dazzling guitar riffs and stinging vibrato, or emoting with his soaring and sultry vocals, he brings a distinctive power and personality to each of his performances. Now, with the release of Keep On Turning, he underscores that ability to add several specific hues to the blues.