On a break from their day gigs in Jason Ricci and the Bad Kind and The Kenny Wayne Shepard Band respectively, Harmonica wizard Jason Ricci and keyboard ace Joe Krown have teamed up on this disc with drummer Doug Belote to deliver 12 cuts that blur the lines of jazz, funk, soul and the blues. Using harmonica and keys instead of guitar and bass brings a freshness to the 12 cuts collected here that distinguishes this from countless other three-piece discs in current circulation. The instrumental title cut finds Ricci and Krown trading leads with Ricci laying down a loping country shuffle and Krown adding a funk counterpoint. The pattern of trading leads continues with "Down ‘n Dirty" which simmers instead of boils until Krown hits the accelerator and Ricci takes the hand-off and lets the notes fly. "My Mama" finds the two mirroring each other through the mid-tempo introductory bars until Ricci unleashes a barrage of notes that ignites the cut into a barn-burner. On "Badger the Witness", "Down At the Juke", "Drifting Blues", "Just a Playboy" and "Feel Good Funk" Ricci mostly sets the harmonica aside for some rough-hewn vocals that land close to early Tom Waits territory. "It Starts with Me" and Bobbie Gentry’s "Ode To Billy Joe" are breezy instrumentals that stand in stark contrast to the dense groove of "Upshot" where Ricci unleashes his inner John Popper and fills all available space with a barrage of notes. Krown’s deft B3 work on "The Jimmy Smith Strut" pays a fitting tribute to the B3 giant while his fleet-fingered piano work on "Just a Playboy" finds him in a race with Ricci who lays down a scorching solo. Overall, a nice change up that charts a different path than most discs hitting the blues charts. SMITTY
review by Mark
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PASSPORT TO THE BLUES
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