Multiple award winning jazz, funk and blues harmonica player, singer, songwriter Jason Ricci has played with, toured and recorded with some of the world’s most esteemed blues, jazz, rock and New Orleans musical legends. Jason is included in nearly every top ten and top twenty lists of harmonica players in magazines and all over the internet. His fascinating career and life has led him up to the highest musical mountain tops such as performing at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, recording a Grammy winning record with Johnny Winter, winning three Blues Music Awards and numerous nominations from The Blues Foundation only to fall all the way down to the lowest valley’s of addiction, homelessness, jails and back up again. Today his sincere recordings, shows, songs and incendiary harmonica playing continue to tell the story of life and garner new fans to add to an emotionally devoted following of dedicated music lovers.
Jason Ricci, born in Portland Maine in 1974 began playing the harmonica, guitar and singing at an early age. His mother was a blues fan and by the time Jason was in his early teens she was bringing him to clubs to witness blues greats like James Cotton, Charlie Musslewhite, Buckwheat Zydeco and many more. Under the guidance of harmonica aces like Madison Slim (Jimmy Rodgers), Mark Hummel, drummer Per Hanson (Ronnie Earl) and many more a young Jason was poised for a life immersed in jazz, blues and roots music. At the age of 16 Ricci would find the blues offstage as well with a troubled and unstable home due to serious mental illness and addiction that ultimately led to homelessnes, shelters and instability in the streets of Portland Maine. Jason was able to get his GED and as part of a divorce agreement between his parents he was able to enroll in college at BSU in Boise Idaho, with a wildlife management major, before his highschool class had yet graduated. While briefly attending school in Boise Idaho, Ricci traded in his formal education for that of a working musician and befriended club owner and pianist Ken Harris who put Ricci to work immediately learning and ultimately performing music at his bar. At Harris’s club: “The Blues Bouquet ” in Boise, the pianist and club owner would pay an underage Ricci a symbolic ten dollars so that the eighteen year old was an actual paid employee of the club and was thus legally allowed to work in the club. Ricci’s nightly duties included ironically checking customers ID’s and of course performing songs with the band from the repertoire of Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton, Paul Butterfield and others, note for note and when Jason strayed his elder Harris would make swift mention. At the Bouquet Ricci played with Smokey Wilson, Johnny Dyer, Mark Hummel, Sam Lay, Mel Solomon and many more. In Boise Ricci would then join his first working band as a sideman in “Streetwise” with vocalist Cyndie Lee and tour the Pacific northwest. In Idaho, Jason, still a teenager, also befriended teen harmonica player/vocalist John Nemeth and played briefly with the North West powerhouse Jimmy Lloyd Rea and the Switchmasters up in Oregon.
In 1995 Ricci moved to Memphis Tennessee where he waited tables, modeled and informally studied with his harmonica player/vocalist Pat Ramsey (Johnny Winter). Ramsey would become Jason’s mentor and musical Father and they remained very close till Pat’s death in 2008 . In Memphis, Ricci played in the clubs and on the street eventually befriended harmonica player Billy Gibson, guitarist Sean Costello, drummer Bobby Little. Within his first few months in Memphis Jason, now twenty one years old, won the “Sonny Boy Blues Society” contest in Helena Arkansas and would perform under his own name with members of Ike Turner’s band at the King Biscuit Festival and represent Arkansas in the then fairly new “International Blues Challenge”. In just a year by 1996 Ricci had moved to Potts Camp Mississippi where he lived and performed with Junior Kimbrough’s oldest son, David “Malone” Kimbrough as a member of David’s band “The Soul Blues Boys”. Jason regurelly played with David as well as his father Junior Kimbrough and RL Burnside every Sunday night and more at juke joints and clubs around North Mississippi. During this time Ricci would record his first couple of solo albums for Billy Gibson’s Memphis based label “North Magnolia Music” with drummer Kinny Kimbrough (Junior Kimbrough), guitarist/vocalist Eric Deaton (Black Keys, Afrossippi, RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough), guitarist Enrico Crivellaro (Janiva Magness, Finis Tasby, James Harman) and Bobby Little (Earl Hooker). Ricci later migrated further south to Jackson Mississippi where he toured and or gigged with Big Bad Smitty, King Edward, Eddie Cotton, Eric Deaton and other Mississippi greats. Jason, only twenty two at this time, toured Europe under his own name with guitarist Enrico Crivellaro and occasionally went home to Maine where he would work with guitarist/vocalist Nick Curran (The Fabulous Thunderbirds Ronnie Dawson).
Trouble with drugs, alcohol and ultimately the law would later land Ricci in a Florida Jail for a little over a year. After his release and new found sobriety he became a regular among the South Florida blues scene, gigging and performing all over Florida with Frank Ward, Albert Castiglia, JP Soars, Damon Fowler, Josh Smith and more. Ricci would later move to Nashville TN where he made his national debut as a touring sideman with New Orleans natives “Big Al and The Heavy Weights”, this was Jason’s first introduction to New Orleans music and culture. For over a year with Big Al, Jason toured the blues club and festival circuit of the U.S.A. and played on two episodes of Emril Legassi’s Emmy award winning cooking show : “Emeril Live”.
In 2001 Jason started his own band “Jason Ricci and New Blood”. They released three independent albums: “Feel Good Funk”, “Live at Checkers Tavern” and “Blood on the Road”. The band sold tens of thousands of these indie recordings out of their van and quickly caught the attention of blues moguel Randy Chortkoff and his label “Delta Groove Records”. With Delta Groove the band released two acclaimed albums for that label: “Rocket Number Nine” and the Blues Music Award nominated album “Done With The Devil” (2010). For nearly ten years Jason Ricci and New Blood toured all over the world, three hundred days a year, playing highly acclaimed festivals, theatres and club dates garnering press, fans and accolades all over the world. During this time Ricci also recorded and toured Europe with Walter Trout as well as appearing on recordings by Nick Curran, Ana Popovic, Cedric Burnside with Lightning Malcolm, The Mannish Boys, Big Chief Monk Moudreaux, Joe Louis Walker and many more. In 2010 Ricci won his first Blues Music Award (BMA) from The Blues Foundation for “Best Instrumentalist Harmonica”.
By the young age of thirty three Jason Ricci had made had made a signifigant mark on the International Blues Scene as an innovative, fiery harmonica player, singer, complex songwriter and recording artist as well as an outspoken openly gay/bi/queer person. Coming from a long hereditary line of drug addiction and alcoholism, mental illness and dysfunction, Jason has always been open about his own struggles with those issues and more,
In 2010 after separating from his long time partner, Ricci’s home in East Nashville was destroyed by flooding and after twelve years of continuous sobriety he fell prey to addiction once again. Jason relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana where he was briefly homeless before Pat Ramsey’s guitarist David Renson gave him a place to live. Jason found work and an introduction to the New Orleans music scene with Renson and guitarist/singer John Lisi of “John Lisi and Delta Funk”. After another run in with the law Ricci would serve yet another year incarcerated in an Indiana jail where after his release he would remain on probation in Bloomington Indiana unable, by law, to leave the state for another couple years. While in Indiana Ricci met his current wife Boston singer/songwriter Kaitlin Dibble. In 2015, now a couple years sober again, Ricci recorded as a feature performer on Johnny Winter’s Grammy Award Winning recording “Step Back” with Eric Clapton, Joe Bonamassa, Dr. John, Brian Setzer, Billy Gibbons, Leslie West and others. That same year (2015) Jason would be invited by Paul Shaffer to perform and induct “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band” into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony Ricci performed Butterfield’s hit “Born in Chicago” with The Paul Shaffer Orchestra, Zac Brown and Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) for twelve and half million viewers on HBO. That year Ricci completed probation in Indiana and immediately moved back to New Orleans.
Back in New Orleans Ricci started his own band again “Jason Ricci and The Bad Kind” with guitarist John Lisi as well as forming a trio with New York guitarist, singer, songwriter JJ Appleton (Jamie Cullum, Keb Mo, Newton Faulkner, Joan Osborne, Pete Yorn). Appleton and Ricci recorded two records: “Dirty Memory” and “Beautiful Slop” and continue to collaborate together on tour and in the studio. “Jason Ricci and the Bad Kind” have recorded two records for the EllerSoul label, the dark and critically acclaimed release: “Approved by Snakes” and the fun and lighthearted New Orleans influenced release “My Chops are Rolling”. Ricci played on Mike Zito’s album “Make Blues Not War”. Jason Ricci and John Lisi also appeared and wrote music for the TV show “CSI New Orleans”.
Jason is now a fixture of the New Orleans music scene as well as the international folk, blues, jazz scene and in 2017 won his second Blues Music Award for “Best Instrumentalist Harmonica” and the “Harmonica Player of The Year” award from S.P.A.H. (The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica). In 2019 Jason Ricci was invited by Jazz legend Terence Blanchard to record music for Tyler Perry’s movie a “Jazzman’s Blues”.
In 2020 with acclaimed New Orleans Pianist/Hammond B3 player Joe Krown (Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Walter Wolfman Washington, Kenny wayne Shepherd) Jason and Joe formed the “Ricci/Krown Trio” and signed with Mike Zito’s label Gulf Coast Records and in 2021 released their highly praised jazz, funk and blues organ trio recording: “City Country City”. In 2022 Jason Ricci won his third Blues Music Award for “Best Instrumentalist Harmonica”.
Today Ricci is busy playing locally and internationally with his band “The Bad Kind” and the Ricci/Krown Trio. Jason Ricci is frequently a first call sideman/addition for the two time Grammy nominated New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian funk band Cha Wa, Walter Wolfman Washington, Nick Moss, JP Soars, Damon Fowler, Lurrie Bell and the many others that call. He recently recorded on The Blues Music Award Nominated album by “The Altered Five Blues Bands”: “Holler if you hear me” and has performed with them as well. On the BMA nominated album He can be found often at home in New Orleans teaching music, harmonica, running his popular YouTube channel and playing with the best that New Orleans and the United states has to offer in the diverse styles of jazz, funk, blues, rock and jam band music. Jason Ricci is endorsed by Hohner Harmonicas, Blue Moon Harmonicas, Harp Gear Amplifiers and has his own line of signature pedals and a harmonica microphone from The Lone Wolf Blues Company.
Jason Ricci Career Timeline
– Wins Sonny Boy Blues Society Contest and represents Arkansas in the International Blues Challenge.
– Joins David Kimbrough’s band and performs regularly with David Junior Kimbrough and RL Burnside.
– Records two records for the North Magnolia Music label: “Jason Ricci” and “Down at The Juke”.
– Wins Mars Music Store National Harmonica Contest.
– Joins and tours nationally with “Big Al and The Heavy Weights”.
– Forms “Jason Ricci and New Blood”.
– Signs and releases two albums for Delta Groove Records: “Rocket Number Nine” and “Done With The Devil” (Blues Music Award nominated). Records with Nick Curran, Ana Popovic, Cedric Burnside, The Mannish Boys, Big Chief Monk Moudreaux, Joe Louis Walker and records and tours with Walter Trout.
– Wins his 1st Blues Music award for “Best Instrumentalist Harmonica” from the Blues Foundation.
– (2015) Inducts Paul Butterfield into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performing on HBO with The Paul Shaffer Orchestra, Zac Brown and Tom Morello.
– (2015) Plays as a featured artist on Johnny Winter’s Grammy Award winning record “Step Back” with Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Dr. John, Joe Bonamassa, Brian Setzer and Leslie West.
– (2016) writes music, records and appears in The TV Show “CSI New Orleans”.
– (2017) Wins his 2nd Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist Harmonica from The Blues Foundation.
– (2017) Wins “Harmonica Player of the Year” Award from S.P.A.H. (Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica).
– (2016-2018) Records: “Approved By Snakes” and “My Chops Are Rolling” for The Ellersoul label.
– (2019) Records with Terence Blanchard for Tyler Perry’s film: “A Jazzman’s Blues”
– (2020) Forms the Ricci/Krown Trio and records: “City Country City” for Gulf Coast Records. The band tours nationally playing Jazz Fest New Orleans and other great clubs and festivals.
– (2022) Wins his 3rd Blues Music Award for “Best Instrumentalist harmonica from The Blues Foundation.
– Jason Ricci tours with his own bands “Jason Ricci and the Bad Kind” (five piece blues, jazz, rock, funk and jam band featuring Kaitlin Dibble), The “Ricci Krown Trio” with Joe Krown (organ trio jazz, funk, and Blues) and Jason Ricci and JJ Appleton (acoustic blues/roots trio). Jason Ricci plays as a sideman with JP Soars, “Jp Soars and Gypsy Blues Revue” and frequently subs in bands with Nick Moss, Damon Fowler and the two time Grammy nominated Mardi Gras Indian funk band Cha Wa.