Astral Project - Elevado (1998)
Artist: Astral Project
Title Of Album: Elevado
Year Of Release: 1998
Label: Compas Records
Genre: Jazz, Funk, Soul-Jazz, Mainstream
Quality: Mp3 / FLAC (tracks +.cue,log)
Bitrate: CBR 320 kbps / Lossless
Time: 64:57 min
Full Size: 156 mb / 369 mb
For this second CD, Elevado, Astral Project keep mining the deep wellspring of original music written by their membership. Five tracks come from the pen of saxophonist Tony Dagradi, plus three apiece from guitarist Steve Masakowski and bassist James Singleton. All have that unmistakably vibrant New Orleans flavor within a modern jazz context, displaying a cool urgency driven by the rhythmic brilliance of drummer John Vidacovich, and colored by Dagradi's potent melodic sax work, the astounding piano punch of David Torkanowsky, Masakowski's clean, untreated guitar, and the rock-solid underpinnings of Singleton. The first four numbers set the tone: "Bulldog Run," with its infectious six/eight funk and deep basslines from Singleton, the recap (originally on Masakowski's Blue Note CD Direct Axecess) of the sing-song, time-shifting "Paladia," the happy strains of "Carnival" and the Michael Pellera composition "Lauren Z" display the band at its zenith, the latter piece sporting guitar/sax/piano unison lines that shimmer and cry out for attention in a most emotional fashion. The rest of the CD goes through different phases, from pop-like ballads "Too Soon to Tell" and "N.O. Goodbyes" to the frenetic "Nose Dive," the quirky "Gator Bait," the darker funk of "Miller," and Torkanowsky taking it out on the initially spacy, eventually avant "O.F.O." This is one of the very best, if not the best contemporary ensembles of the late '90s. They're tight, tuneful, powerful and uncompromising, with a complete understanding of dynamic shadings, and individually some of the best musicians anywhere. This recording represents a high-water mark that may be hard to top, but it's likely that they will, perhaps on a date that captures them in performance -- they're that great.
1. Bulldog Run
4. Lauren Z
5. Too Soon To Tell
6. Gator Bait
10. Nose Dive
11. N.O. Goodbyes
12. Astral Elevado
There's an abundance of heat and creative energy flowing from the epicenter of Astral Project, a New Orleans-based quintet whose ethereal name belies its usual choice of straight-ahead bop-influenced Jazz with a Crescent City ambiance. While saxophonist Dagradi seems to be the main man, everyone in the ensemble has a well-defined role to play, and consummates it without mishap. The dozen tunes on Elevado (all of which were written by members of the group including "Carnival" by pianist Mike Pellera who sits in for Torkanowsky on "Lauren Z"), while somewhere short of memorable, serve well the quintet's forthright purpose. Dagradi wrote five of them (including the last three), bassist Singleton and guitarist Masakowski three apiece. Dagradi's "O.F.O." (One for Ornette) is a ballad that seldom intrudes on the more audacious terrain favored by Coleman. Dagradi also wrote the session's other ballads, "Too Soon to Tell" and "N.O. Goodbyes," and the faster-paced "Nose Dive" and "Astral Elevation." What draws one's ear and sets Astral Project apart from many groups its size are the captivating rhythmic patterns, especially as laid down by drummer Vidacovich on Singleton's "Bulldog Run" and "Lauren Z" or Pellera's "Carnival." Vidacovich simply calls it "street drumming," but it's seldom heard anywhere outside New Orleans. Dagradi, by the way, plays soprano (and quite well) on "Lauren Z," tenor on every other number. Solos other than his are generally more abbreviated but Masakowski, Singleton and Torkanowsky acquit themselves well when called upon to step forward. Above all, Astral Project performs seamlessly as a unit, which may be why it's not called the Tony Dagradi Quintet. Solid mainstream Jazz by a group that deserves to be heard. Luminous rhythmic sorties also predominate on New Orleans LA, the quintet's earlier release (recorded between 1990-95). Dagradi's voice isn't quite as prominent here, although he's hardly tongue-tied either. Dagradi's tenor and soprano have their say, and he wrote four of the disc's 10 selections (everyone in the group had a hand in "Instant Composition," an off-the-cuff improvisation dedicated to Nat Adderley). Also on the program are Singleton's "Bongo Joe," Masakowski's "Sidewalk Strut" and tunes by Strayhorn ("A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing"), Monk ("I Mean You") and Carla Bley ("Viking Song"). "Sidewalk Strut" is a highlight, again thanks in part to drummer Vidacovich's remarkable ability to reproduce the street rhythms of New Orleans and in part to a ringing solo by Masakowski. Strayhorn's ballad, the disc's second-longest track at 9:12 (recorded live), includes a lovely introductory passage by Torkanowsky and Joe Henderson-inspired blowing by Dagradi (on tenor). His own composition, "Miles" (another dedication, we assume), rests in the sort of funky groove often favored by the trumpeter in his later years, and the group offers a perky, rhythmically intense version of Monk's "I Mean You." Dagradi's "Indian Folk Song," recorded in 1990 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, is another winner, with the rhythm section cooking on all burners before an appreciative audience. Dagradi's expressive tenor is at home on Bley's brooding "Viking Song," which closes the session. Again, nothing groundbreaking, but more than a hour of solid, fast-paced straight-ahead Jazz.
Elevado - Tony Dagradi, saxophones; Steve Masakowski, guitars; David Torkanowsky, piano; James Singleton, bass; John Vidacovich, drums; Michael Pellera, piano ("Lauren Z"). New Orleans LA - same as above but without Pellera.
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