WBGO Playdate

WBGO's Playdate: Astral Project & Bobby McFerrin

Astral Project Bobby McFerrin

This bonus audio for Playdate Show #5. Click to hear New Orleans' Astral Project play "Mahakali" with vocalist Bobby McFerrin.

Playdate #5 is all about New Orleans - with great music from the Crescent City by Queen Ida, Wynton Marsalis and more!

One of this show's highlights is the surprising 1999 reunion of vocalist Bobby McFerrin with the New Orleans band Astral Project in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

McFerrin first met the band at The Old Absinthe Bar on Bourbon Street, where he sat in - on piano! There was chemistry, and this meeting evolved into a 5-month tour. During this tour, McFerrin began to develop some of the innovative techniques that have become his now-famous, original vocal style.

In 1998, McFerrin (shown here with James Singleton and Tony Dagradi) reunited with Astral Project at at the Dakota Bar and Grill in Minneapolis. This time, it was Bobby who asked the band to accompany him on a Midwestern tour the following summer.

Here are some photos from the concert at Cleveland Heights' Cain Park on June 30, 1999 with Tony Dagradi on tenor sax; Steve Masakowski, guitar; David Torkanowsky, piano; James Singleton, bass and Johnny Vidacovich, drums.

(L to R) James Singleton, David Torkanowsky, Steve Masakowski, Johnny Vidacovich

James Singleton, David Torkanowsky, Tony Dagradi, Bobby McFerrin, Johnny Vidacovich, Steve Masakowski

Astral Project is alive and well in in New Orleans, and has been a fixture on the city's jazz scene for over three decades. Playdate producer Alexander Ariff got to see for himself back in 2010, when he checked out Astral Project at Snug Harbor on Frenchman Street.

(L to R) Steve Masakowski, Tony Dagradi, James Singleton

Nowadays, Johnny Vidacovich holds a residency at New Orleans' Maple Leaf Bar, where he is often joined by his friend and Astral Project bandmate James Singleton on bass.

Tony Dagradi also performs with some of New Orleans' most recognized musciains: The Meters, Dr. John, and Allen Toussaint.

David Torkanowsky, while no longer featured in Astral Project, sustains a prominent place on the city's music scene, where he performs and hosts the The Blues Ball on WWOZ New Orleans.

Steve Masakowski teaches at the University of New Orleans and often performs with his daughter, Sasha Masakowski, who has come into the fold as a prominent vocalist on New Orleans' ever-evolving, and often surprisingly experimental, jazz scene.

You can hear more from Astral Project and Bobby McFerrin's reunion concert in 1999, along with more recordings to put you in the Mardi Gras spirit, on Playdate with Matt Wilson Show #5. Join us, by clicking here!

Support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, New Jersey State Council on the Arts and WBGO.

Playdate funders

Produced for WBGO by Alexander Ariff,
with Becca Pulliam and Duke Markos, Executive Producer Josh Jackson.

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