NATCHITOCHES – Astral Project will perform with the Northwestern State University Jazz Orchestra Friday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall. Admission is free and open to the public. The performance by Astral Project replaces a concert by the Stan Kenton Alumni Jazz Orchestra on April 10 which was cancelled.
The NSU Jazz Orchestra conducted by Galindo Rodriguez will open the program with “Oleo” by Sonny Rollins and “Cajun Cookin’” by Dennis Diblasio.
Astral Project will perform several works from their CDs including “Big Shot,” “The Legend of Cowboy Bill,” “Blue Streak,” “Live in New Orleans,” “Screamin’ Loud,” “Elevado,” “Voodoo Bop” and Stretching the Aural Universe.”
For more than 30 years, Astral Project has delighted audiences around the world with its unique brand of cutting edge improvisation. In 1978, Tony Dagradi gathered together the brightest, most energetic young players in the Crescent City and started out on a path that would help shape the modern jazz scene for years to come. A devoted student of Eastern philosophy, Dagradi coined the band name as a reflection of the group’s quest for a higher plane of experience.
Dagradi is joined in Astral Project by guitarist and composer Steve Masakowski, bassist and composer James Singleton and drummer John Vidacovich.
For more three decades, Dagradi has made his home in New Orleans, performing on tenor and soprano sax with many of the Crescent City’s most celebrated artists, including Ellis Marsalis, Allen Toussaint, James Booker, The Meters, Dr. John, James Black, Johnny Adams and Gatemouth Brown. An accomplished classical performer as well, he’s often called upon to augment the woodwind section of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. His performing past also includes five years as a member of the internationally acclaimed Carla Bley band and appearances with Bobby McFerrin, Mose Allison and Nat Adderly. Since 1990 Dagradi has been a professor of saxophone and jazz studies at Loyola University in New Orleans where he maintains a large saxophone studio, teaches classes in improvisation and directs ensembles.
Masakowski plays unique seven-string guitars of his own design that are hand-made by New Orleans luthier Sal Giardina. Steve has performed with such jazz greats as Woody Shaw, Carl Fontana, Dave Liebman, Jimmy Smith, Sam Rivers and, most recently, Dianne Reeves, Bennie Wallace and Rick Margitza. Among the awards and honors that he has garnered are two National Endowment For The Arts fellowships, several grants from The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and one from the Louisiana Division of The Arts. Masakowski’s own recordings include: “What It Was,” “Direct AXEcess,” “Mars,” “Friends,” “For Joe” and Moon and Sand. His solo work can also be heard on recordings by Reeves, Mose Allison, Alvin “Red” Tyler and Margitza.
Singleton to a large degree, defines the sound of Astral Project. His solid rhythmic concept and harmonic sense are the foundation of this innovative group’s improvisational strength. He has performed in concert with such modern jazz musicians as John Abercrombie, John Scofield, Art Baron, Ellis Marsalis, Earl Turbinton and Eddie Harris. He has appeared with swing and traditional greats Brown, Lionel Hampton, Arnette Cobb and Banu Gibson. His extensive recording credits include work with Chet Baker, Tyler, James Booker, Charlie Rich and Zachary Richard. Singleton produced the Astral Project album “Elevado.” He is leader of the experimental group 3 Now 4, which has released a self-titled debut and the new “Book of Spells” (G.E.S.).
Vidacovich’s unique style and conviction has led to performances with Joe Henderson, Donald Byrd, Kenny Baron, Harris, Adderley, Joe Williams, Ray Anderson and Bennie Wallace, plus work with such Southern legends as Professor Longhair, James Booker and Allison. He has toured with the young guitarist Charlie Hunter. Vidacovich’s albums as a leader include “Banks Street” and “Mystery Street” (both Chebasco) and his new solo album, “Vidacovich.”