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Astral Project bringing eclectic sound to S.L.

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Throughout the years, the Astral Project has become more of a collaborative body.

"When it first began back in 1978, it was considered David (Torkanowsky's) band," said bassist James Singleton. "But lately we've all been adding our own songs and doing our own things with it."

The Astral Project — Singleton, founder/pianist David Torkanowsky, drummer John Vidacovich, saxophonist Tony Dagradi and guitarist Steve Masakowski — will play Thursday, Aug. 3, at the Gallivan Utah Center, 200 South and State Street. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.; admission is free.

From the early days, Astral Project has played around its home base of New Orleans where it gained a loyal listenership. "I booked the band for gigs for five years," Singleton remembered. "And I pushed the band to make its first CD. Once that was done, I sent them out. It wasn't a hard chore getting the band gigs after the CD went out. Everyone who heard it wanted to see us play live."

Then again, said Singleton, people lit up to the notion that the band was from New Orleans. "That added to the mystique and caught a lot of people's eyes. And then there was the fact that we weren't a dixieland or zydeco band."

There is also the Bobby McFerrin connection. "Bobby knew us in New Orleans and did some things with us. Then he left and became a superstar. With that status, he was able to do pretty much anything he wanted to do. And he chose to work with us again on live settings and other programs."

Singleton said the live performances are what make the band. "All the musicians who play in this band are very melodic when it comes to their instruments. And we like to go off on things. When we play live, we get into a spontaneous mode and give it what we got."

Astral Project's albums are an attempt to capture that live energy on CD. Singleton said the new disc, "Voodoo Bop," comes very close to getting that live feel.

"All the solos are done off the hip," he said. "The cut 'The Queen Is Slave to No Man' is almost entirely improvised. We do have some guidelines of the songs, but it's up to the band members to add their own things into it."

Lately, the band has taken that feel to the younger 'jam band' audience, who indulge in the free-form grooves of the Phish and the Grateful Dead.

"Our CDs are very eclectic," Singleton explained. "So it's hard for people to pigeonhole us. That's a great victory. We do still go and play the jazz clubs like the Blue Note in New York, but we've been playing these jazz festivals that have exposed us to these younger fans who like the jamming."

With all the different personalities in the band, there isn't a clear-cut goal for the future, said Singleton.

"But I have a feeling we all want to make music and do some more tours," he said.

E-MAIL: scott@desnews.com