Shipless Blues Cruise by Jim Stick

Posted on 4/03/2010 by Jim Stick

(Boulder, Colorado) On March 12th and 13th of this year the The Boulder Outlook Hotel put on a blues event that was unique in many ways. They called it a "Shipless Blues Cruise". Owner Dan King and booker Honey Sepeda brought in two major national blues acts for the weekend that Neil Simon, who wrote the play "The Odd Couple', would have been proud of the diversity between: Bob Margolin and Jason Ricci and New Blood. They further spiced up the weekend by booking two of the most accomplished Colorado blues bands in The Informants and the Delta Sonics.

It was a fascinating blues experience to see the modern harp wunderkind Ricci and his band, who stretch the modern blues envelope multi-dimensionally to the breaking point with a dazzling display of jazz\blues\funk instrumental wizardry, invite former Muddy Waters band mate and guitar player Margolin on stage to play with them. Then the next night, Margolin returned the favor and invited Ricci up to jam with him. One thing was plainly obvious--though they are on different ends of the blues spectrum--they both have a tremendous amount of respect for each other.

Jason Ricci and Bob Margolin

Margolin explained it to me this way about playing with Jason Ricci & New Blood:

"We call it Jason Ricci & Old Blood when I am up there. Believe me, I live my life around nasty old blues, but I appreciate other kinds of music if it is creative and soulful and that is Jason. I think he is incredibly creative. I don't know how to play that stuff but it sure is fun to try with him and at least try and apply my greasy old blues to his funk songs or more outside things too. It's good fun for me and I am just in awe of him".

Insert the theme music from the TV show "The Odd Couple" here.

Margolin also weighed in on the talents of Ricci & New Blood's guitar player Shawn Starski:

"I'm knocked out. He's got incredible chops and a lot of creativity. What he and Jason are doing together with the band is just spectacular".

Margolin played a short warm up set on Saturday Ricci & New Blood's bass player Todd "Buck Weed" Edmunds who hauled out his acoustic upright bass for the duet. Margolin is also a fan of Edmunds:

"We were playing traditional blues and he can also play funk and jazz and all those other things with amazing chops".

Jason Ricci is a thoughtful, introspective and fascinating human being who has a lot to say. He is a very knowledgeable student on the history of the blues. I asked him about his thoughts on Margolin and the modern versus traditional views on blues. His eyes widened and lit up. He thought for a quick moment, and then a ten minute or so wave of thoughts poured out of his soul. Here are some of the highlights:

"What I found (in Bob) was a very nurturing human individual and I found an individual with an open mind. What I have gotten from Bob Margolin is much more than a traditional musical father figure or a lifetime father figure--although he is both of these--what I have is an ally. I have somebody that could represent better than anyone else the President of the Hate Jason Society---who doesn't hate me--who supports me. I mean the one guy who should--the one guy who has the credentials to say hey this kid ain't doing it right--is saying listen people the kid can do it any way he wants. Muddy did it any way he wanted and by the way when I sit in with your ass I don't want to play blues. I want to play whatever the f*** you guys are playing".

Ricci coaxes high notes out of his harmonica that remind one of a soprano saxophone. A truly amazing and unique musician.

Ricci continued:

"Margolin is his own cat. He doesn't play just like Muddy. If Muddy had played like Charlie Patton---there wouldn't be a Muddy. If some of the guys who play traditional blues today (who look down on modern blues players) were alive in the 50's--they would be telling you that Little Walter is out of control, plays too many notes, and that Sonny Boy I was the real guy. It is so amazing that they don't have the awareness to see themselves like that. Bob's the best and I don't know what I would do without him".

Shawn Starski also had kinds words for his fellow guitar player Margolin:

"With Bob, I consider it as inspiration. His tone is great. His dexterity is great. His element of time and swing is impeccable. I just love it".

There were too many musical highlights during the weekend to list. The bands all played individually and jammed in more combinations than can be remembered. Kudos must go to the Boulder Outlook Hotel for thinking outside of the normal box and coming up with the Shipless Boat Cruise".

Ricci sitting in with The Informants and their sultry lead singer Kerry Pastine.

Owner Dan King explained the origins of the event to me this way:

"The whole idea of the "Shipless Blues Cruise" really started several years ago after talking to people who had gone on the real Blues Cruise. I really want to go too, but with two kids in college--I am about $4000 short! So we decided to do a mini-version here at the hotel and keep the price within reach of more people".

Margolin with Delta Sonics' harp player Al Chesis

Margolin was also impressed with the thought process behind the weekend:

"Usually a new idea takes a few years for it to work out and be profitable. They have done well with it and by the second year, they've sold all the tickets they want to sell and actually are limiting it so it won't be uncomfortably crowded for anybody. Whoever thinks of things like that instead of: gimme the money, gimme the money, gimme the money? One of the things about blues and blues club's owners--and it doesn't happen with everybody--but blues is an asshole filter. People aren't in it for the money. They are usually in it for the love and they use their creativity to try and find ways to make it work. You can't generalize it too much, because each situation is pretty specific, but you can generalize that people do have to think outside the box and be creative".

Denver based The Informants--tied this year for Best Self Produced CD in Memphis at the IBC.

Jim Stick is a blues writer\photographer living in Longmont, CO.
He has his own blues information website for the state of Colorado:

©Jim Stick, 2010

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