ASTRAL PROJECT
                  Voodoo Bop
                 Recording Date:
                     December 28-30, 1998

                   Tony Dagradi      SS,TS 
                   Steve Masakowski    G 
                   James Singleton       B 
                   David Torkanowsky  O,P
                   Johnny Vidacovich   Per


Review by Michael G. Nastos
For their third CD, Astral Project stretch compositional boundaries. This set of originals is again split between the membership; James Singleton with two, Steve Masakowski with three, Tony Dagradi with four. John Vidacovich writes one and sings an emotionally affected version of "Old Folks." Unmistakably modern jazz, the quintet also explores hard funk, cool and spooky or loose and swinging neo-bop, rambling free style, lugubrious ballads, and more.
The opening title track mixes hard swing and New Orleans funk in a perfect 50/50 blend. There's ultimate dramatism in "Smoke and Mirrors," gospel intonations during "Protecting Circle," and a heady progression of Irish chamber-space guitar-free improvisation-cascading piano-Irish chamber musics on "The Queen Is Slave to No Man," truly a stunner. Most selections are saxophone driven, Dagradi is even more extroverted than on earlier recordings. He's breaking out of a 'Trane-Michael Brecker derived sound, and seems bent on shattering those notions. Reveling in this diverse musical gumbo, drummer Vidacovich plays possessed, dynamic, precise rhythms. If there's a difference between this and the outstanding previous CD Elevado, these compositions may be a bit less tuneful, more challenging, but no less exciting. The diversity within their identity is as startling as the brilliant musicianship. This ensemble seems to take a more experimental approach with every passing year. They're restless, not willing to stand on their lofty laurels. And they may suffer slightly in stark tempo changes from cut to cut on Voodoo Bop. Nonetheless, this is another triumph from a truly extraordinary group. Highly recommended, for both fans and the uninitiated.

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