Astral Project

  • 5:30pm / April, 13th 2014
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    WWL's Esplanade in the Shade Stage

Since 1978, Astral Project has been New Orleans most exciting, inventive and respected morden jazz group. It’s a co-op band comprised of world-class improvisers, hailed by fans and critics around the world.

Down Beat calls Astral Project “one of the most distinctive and cohesive groups in jazz.”

JazzTimes calls Astral Project “one of the more adventurous working units in modern jazz today.”

The daily paper in Astral Project’s home town, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, calls Astral Project simply “the city’s premier modern jazz ensemble.” The monthly music magazine OffBeat says Astral Project is“the finest modern jazz ensemble in New Orleans, and undoubtedly one of the most unique jazz groups period.”

“Big Shot,” the band’s first album in three years, showcases the band’s unique mix of funky street rhythms, exotic melodies and brilliant improvisation as never before. From the inside-out groove of the title track to the collective improvisation of Pandemonium, the record displays the band’s peerless composing and performing skills.

Saxophonist Tony Dagradi, a devoted student of Eastern philosophy, coined the band name as a reflection of the group’s quest for a higher plane. As anyone who has seen the band in concert knows, every performance finds the band members reaching for the stars.

These veteran musicians — known as tops on their instruments in jazz-rich New Orleans, each with many album credits as leaders and sidemen — bring a wealth of diverse experience to the bandstand. Which is why the group journeys into different musical spheres.

“All of my life what I’ve enjoyed most is that I get to play all kinds of different gigs with different people,” says John Vidacovich, the undisputed master of modern New Orleans drumming. “But this is what we do. What makes us cool as a group is that when we get together — for so long over so many years — we bring these other little trips we’ve been on.”

True to the original spirit of jazz, Astral Project creates real tunes — memorable melodies — while giving the musicians freedom to incorporate influences from all sources. The group shifts direction like a flock of birds in flight — with an ease so uncanny it seems to verge on telepathy. It’s the that can come only from special individuals who have spent decades improvising together.

“You have to stay out of the way of the music,” says James Singleton “and then the reward is you learn something new that you didn’t know before about yourself. If I close my eyes, I can learn more, I can get more. You find it’s a transcendent experience. It’s a spiritual experience in a way. Because you find you become part of a larger thing. It reinforces your faith — in God and existence, human existence. It heals you.”