Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rocket Number 9 reviewed by Mark Thompson

Rocket Number 9
Jason Ricci & New Blood
Electo Groove
12 tracks/74:11

It has been a long uphill climb for Jason Ricci. After a number of years of constant touring and a series of self-released recordings, the guys have finally have a shot at the brass ring. Electo Groove is a new label, an offshoot of the Delta Groove company. That means better studios to record in, bigger budgets and plenty of advertising in wide range of musical publications. Any of you who have caught one of Jason’s live shows at Big Cities over the past couple of years know that this band deserves wider recognition.
The CEO of Delta Groove, Randy Chortkoff, decided to create Electo Groove as vehicle for musicians that were pushing the boundaries in music, bands that did not fit the more traditional approach found on DG recordings. A fine harp player himself, Chortkoff was blown away by Jason’s talent and equally impressed with Ricci as human being. He hired famed British producer, John Porter, to guide the project. And together, Jason, Porter and New Blood have created a work that explores the depth of Ricci’s musical vision while highlighting the instrumental virtuosity of the band.
“The Rocker” opens the disc with an examination of addiction, Ricci snapping out the lyrics with his hoarse, rough voice. Guitarist Shawn Starsky contributes a brief but powerful solo before Ricci displays some of his fantastic harp work. The next track was written during a stretch Ricci spent in jail. “I’m a New Man” is a tale about unrecognized personal growth. Starsky channels the spirit of Steve Cropper with his chord playing before taking a soulful solo - followed by Ricci exploring the upper ranges of his harp.
In the CD notes, Ricci comments that “Loving Eyes” is his favorite of all the songs he has written. He refers to it as “Junior Kimbrough meets the Byrds”. The song tends to drag a bit until Starsky leaps in with a series of power chords before taking off on a solo flight that confirms that he is a guitar player to reckoned with. Then the band lowers the intensity level before Ricci jumps in with another harp outburst full of inventive lines easily executed at lightning tempos.
The group is joined by Michael Peloquin on sax for the funky Starsky original “Dodecahedron”. Shawn once again steals the spotlight with his powerhouse guitar playing. This recording confirms that Shawn has developed his talent to a level that puts him in the same league as Jason. His efforts throughout the disc always captures your attention and raises the intensity of each performance.
The band finally gets around to playing some blues on tracks like “Deliver Us” with Jason and Shawn trading off leads at a rapid tempo. “The Blow Zone Layer” puts the spotlight on Jason for one of his patented harp workouts that will have you shaking your head in amazement. Starsky jumps in with some rockabilly-style guitar. They follow that with one of the highlights of this disc, the slow blues “The Way I Hurt Myself”. Ricci lays down a strong vocal on the mournful tale. Starsky tears it up on guitar once again and Ricci provides a contrast by staying in the upper of the harp.
“Snow Flakes and Horses” is an original tune that Ricci has already recorded several times. But this version is the final word. Todd ”Buck Weed” Edmunds lays down a booming bottom-end on bass and Ron Sutton on drums supplies a strong beat. Jason and Shawn once again stage a musical dialogue that delights with energy and creativity.
The title track closes the disc. Written by jazz iconoclast Sun Ra (aka Sonny Blount), this cut shows the imagination the group has and clearly shows that Electo Groove is willing to let it’s artists truly push the envelope. This challenging work channels the spirit and irreverence of Frank Zappa, with Jason taking a brief foray on a nose flute before switching to harp.
It is exciting to finally get a recording by this band that fully explores the many facets of their talents. A couple of tracks may be fall into the category of acquired taste. But Jason, Shawn, Todd and Ron did not play it safe. And to their credit, the powers-that-be at Electo Groove gave the band the freedom to put together a recording that clearly demonstrates the incredible musical ability of the entire band as well as the depth of their influences. You can’t stuff this recording into any one category. They are just too good for that !!!

No comments: