Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Jason Ricci interview: part 1

September 15, 2023 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 93
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Jason Ricci interview: part 1
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast +
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Jason Ricci joins me on episode 93 (and on episode 94)

In part one: Jason tells us how he started out in a punk band, with his bandmates suggesting he take up the harmonica. Of course, he took to it quickly, to become quite possibly the leading diatonic harmonica player of his generation. 
After initially developing his blues playing via the classic players, Jason moved to Memphis and developed his signature fast licks under the guidance of Pat Ramsey. Then, after getting into jazz and a brief flirtation with the saxophone, he started playing overblows, inspired by Howard Levy and the more blues based approach of Adam Gussow. 
Jason moved from Memphis for stints in various places, including Florida and jail, before settling in Nashville where he really made his presence known with his band Jason Ricci and New Blood.

To be continued...


Jason’s social media links::

Patreon page:

Tip Jason:



Jason's YouTube channel:

Baby Scratch My Back with the Nick Moss band:

Podcast website:

If you want to make a voluntary donation to help support the running costs of the podcast then please use this link (or visit the podcast website link above):

or sign-up to a monthly subscription to the podcast:

Spotify Playlist:
Also check out the Spotify Playlist, which contains most of the songs discussed in the podcast:

Podcast sponsors:
This podcast is sponsored by SEYDEL harmonicas - visit the oldest harmonica factory in the world at www.seydel1847.com  or on Facebook or Instagram at SEYDEL HARMONICAS

Support the show
Significance of the number 93 to Jason comes from his previous interest in the occult
Jason was born in 1974, and maybe isn’t the hot young thing of harmonica now
Born in Portland, Maine
Jason’s first played in a punk band at age 14, as vocalist with the other band members suggesting Jason add harmonica
Jason had previously played guitar and his teacher also played some harmonica and Jason took to it quickly
Uses guitar for songwriting
How harmonica fitted into a punk band: spoiler - not very well!
Started out learning the harmonica by listening to the classic blues players, and the nearby Boston blues scene
Mother was into blues and took a young Jason to blues concerts
Got serious about the harmonica age 17 or 18
Started getting gigs while at college, and he was focusing more on the music
John Nemeth lived close by to Jason around Idaho
Jason moved to Memphis in 1995, which was the start of his musical career really taking off
Started winning contests as soon as he moved to Memphis
First saw Billy Gibson playing in a club in Memphis, followed by Pat Ramsey
Jason was eager to learn the combination of fast licks and note selection from Pat’s playing
Pat Ramsey had previously played with Johnny Winter, which led to Jason playing on a Grammy winning album with Johnny Winter (Step Back)
Recorded harmonica for the Johnny Winter album in isolation, to scratch tracks
How Jason approached learning to play fast, including studying Pat Ramsey
Pat Ramsey was a father figure to Jason and the biggest influence on his playing
First album release was the self-titled ‘Jason Ricci’, which Jason is pleased has fallen into obscurity!
Believes a quality gate for releasing albums is a good thing, which may be one disadvantage of the internet these days
Almost took up the saxophone after coming out of a rehab detention centre, where he wasn’t allowed to play harmonica or even hear any music whatsoever
Fell in love with jazz, which prompted interest in the saxophone due to the limitations of the diatonic, but then discovered overblows
Heard the album UFO Tofu with Howard Levy playing with Bela Fleck, which turned Jason onto overblows
Jason doesn’t see a lot of valid comparisons between saxophone and harmonica
Understanding chords, arpeggios and scales is the key to developing
Dennis Gruenling (and Carlos del Junco) is the closest blues harmonica player to obtain a saxophone sound
Adam Gussow was the first influence for Jason taking up overblows, from a blues context
Have to really want the notes available via overblows in order to master them
Is able to play without overblows when the music calls for it (such as straight blues)
Overblow notes come out naturally during Jason’s playing
Use of overblows during fast runs
Learnt to set-up harmonica for overblows, especially before harmonica’s improved from 2011 onwards
Need to play overblows to emulate Jason’s modern blues and jazz approach, but some aspects are possible without overblows
Influence of Charlie Parker
Doesn’t read music
Left Memphis to move to Jackson, Mississippi, to Florida, North Carolina and then to Nashville
Formed Jason Ricci and New Blood band in the early 2000s
Continuous touring with New Blood for ten years
Some of the challenges the band faced as they became more successful
Jason made his name with New Blood
Blood On The Road album and lyrics drawn from Jason’s life experiences
Harmonica often overshadows Jason’s lyrics, which often mean more to him as they’re so personal
Doesn’t want to sing old blues songs that aren’t related to his own experiences, and writing contemporary lyrics is more appealing to a younger audience
Reasons for the success of New Blood
Done With The Devil album was nominated for Best Blues Rock album award, and some jazz songs on that
Classical influence on Jason’s playing coming from a fascination with the violin
Also a fan of free jazz
I have been learning the violin since the pandemic
What Jason has learnt most from listening to the violin
Jason created a harmonica caprice, inspired by the violin, and more classical inspired harmonica on his latest album
No plans to release a solo harmonica album of caprices!