Like his friend Sonny Landreth, harmonica player/accordionist Jumpin' Johnny Sansone takes his songwriting cues from the things he sees in his New Orleans home. Many of the songs on Crescent City Moon, his debut for Rounder's Bullseye Blues label, are inspired by the sights, sounds, and smells of the Crescent City.
Sansone left his native West Orange, NJ, at 17 in 1975 to attend college in Colorado on a swimming scholarship. He began playing harmonica at age 13, also accompanying himself on guitar. "I was trying to be Jimmy Reed in our basement," he recalled in a 1997 interview. Sansone's father was a professional saxophonist who played with various jazz groups on the Newark, NJ, club scene.
Sansone lived in Colorado, Austin, Boston, and Chapel Hill, NC, before moving to New Orleans in 1990. The whole time, he led regional touring bands, most notably Jumpin' Johnny & the Blues Party. Sansone is no spring chicken when it comes to getting out on the road and supporting his independently released records. In 1987, Sansone and his former band, known as Jumpin' Johnny & the Blues Party, recorded an album Where Y'at? for the Kingsnake label of Sanford, FL. Jumpin' Johnny & the Blues Party also recorded and released Mister Good Thing for the Atlanta-based Ichiban label in 1991.
Sansone began playing accordion after attending Clifton Chenier's funeral, and Sansone said that some people assume he's a zydeco musician when they see him carrying it into a club.
Crescent City Moon (1997, Bullseye Blues) received rave reviews from around the country. The album fuses Chicago blues, swamp boogie, and lyrical images of New Orleans and the bayou country of southwest Louisiana. All of the songs on his debut album are his own, except his cover of Ted Hawkins' "Sweet Baby."
Sansone has won numerous awards in the Crescent City, including Offbeat magazine's annual "Best of the Beat" competition, where he won four awards after he released Crescent City Moon on his own label in 1996. Sansone won Song of the Year, Best Harmonica Player, Best Blues Band, and Best Blues Album of the Year.
Over the years, to get money together for various recording projects, Sansone has worked construction jobs. But with his deal with Rounder's Bullseye Blues subsidiary -- which in addition to Crescent City Moon yielded 1999's Watermelon Patch -- he should be able to take his artistry to the next level, touring nationally and internationally. ~ Richard Skelly