Live in New Orleans
Astral Project Live in New Orleans On "Live in New Orleans," Astral Project rips through a 92 minute live set at Snug Harbor, New Orleans' premier jazz bistro. The DVD contains eight originals, poetry by drummer John Vidacovich and a impassioned version of Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count." While the accompanying CD contains seven of the ten cuts, all tracks are available on the DVD as MP3s and as digital downloads from iTunes. OFFBEAT MAGAZINE - July 2006 Astral Project Live in New Orleans It's not an exaggeration to say that a typical night at Snug harbor with Astral Project is always a great night of jazz. Since 1978, the group of all-star players - saxophonist Tony Dagradi, drummer Johnny Vidacovich, bassist James Singleton and guitarist Steve Masakowski - has knocked out audiences around the world with it's inspired, energetic and all-for-one performances. For the first time in it's stellar history, Astral Project has released a live recording that captures the ensemble onstage at it's Frenchmen Street musical home. Video recorders were also in the house to mark another band first, a companion DVD that was produced by Dagradi's son, Dominic. The 68-minute CD and 92 minute DVD come in a set (not sold separately) and the music can be downloaded to MP3 players. As it would be a regular gig, most of the material comes from the musicians' hefty pens and includes favorites such as Singleton's "Cowboy Bill" with it's unusual western, get-along-little-doggie theme. Here, too, is Vidacovich's progressive "Saint Paul," and Masakowski's bow to New Orleans, "Sidewalk Strut." Several tunes such as Dagradi's "Spherical" show up only on the DVD. The no-frills video let's the audience in on the group's visual appeal and the personalities of the musicians, from the understated stance of Masakowski while he rips off intricate solos, to Vidacovich's always-humerous CD sales pitch and his wonderfully rich and witty poetry. While a live recording is an absolute necessity for some bands whose essence seems to be difficult to capture on disc, Astral Project has never had this foible. Nonetheless, the spontaneous communication and improvisation that is central to jazz happens on the bandstand. The straight forward title of this package succinctly tells the story. Live in New Orleans is Astral Project digging into the music with unwavering verve in the comfort of it's home turf. -Geraldine Wycoff THE TIMES PICAYUNE - May 6, 2006 Astral Project Live in New Orleans There is much to savor in Astral Project's relatively modest catalog of five studio recordings across a 27-year history. But onstage is where saxophonist Tony Dagradi, guitarist Steve Masakowski, bassist Jim Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich best showcase their telepathic communication, coupled with an undiminished joy for challenging one another via collective improvisation within a compositional framework. "Live in New Orleans," the group's new combination CD and DVD release, captures the quartet in it's natural element - the stage. Recorded on March 12, 2005, at Snug Harbor, the band's longtime home base in Faubourg Marigny, it is Astral Project's first live release. Dagradi lays down a lovely melodic extended tenor sax solo, Vidacovich dances over the cymbals amid the occasional excursion on this toms, Singleton shows off his particularly elastic bass lines, and Masakowski teases out a place for his own nimble guitar meditations - and that's all within the CD's 11 minute opening track. Save a cover of Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count," they focus on original material, from the lyrical to more challenging avant-garde. The 98-minute DVD provides a visual record, as well as 25 additional minutes of music. But simply hearing Astral Project in action affirms their status as the masters of modern jazz in New Orleans. - Keith Spera.