*Astral Project*, with its original all-star roster and 40-plus-year history, easily ranks as New Orleans’ premier modern jazz ensemble. Founded in 1978 by saxophonist Tony Dagradi, the group also includes seven-string guitar whiz Steve Masakowski, the impeccable drummer Johnny Vidacovich, and the dynamic, passionate bassist James Singleton. (Pianist Dave Torkanowsky left the group in 2001.) The group cut its teeth on Bourbon Street, drawing on New Orleans’ rhythms and musical influences as they charted their own course into the waters of contemporary jazz modes. Bobby McFerrin often sat in on those early gigs at the Old Absinthe House, and the band and its members have since performed and recorded with a Who’s Who of jazz. But Astral Project doesn’t need guest stars. Each prolific musician brings a lifetime of professional success and high-caliber performance to the ensemble’s sound. Dagradi is a university professor with an active teaching and concert schedule, Masakowski is a retired teacher who plays with his musician offspring, while Vidacovich and Singleton are considered to be among the top jazz rhythm players in the city, if not the nation. Together, the group continues to explore the boundaries of modern improvisation, rooted in the steamy streets of the Crescent City. Astral Project has toured across the globe, won numerous awards, and recorded several albums, including “Blue Streak,” “Big Shot,” and “The Legend of Cowboy Bill.” They remain a jazz fan favorite at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and other area venues. Masakowski, Dagradi, Singleton, and Vidacovich can also be heard individually on their own solo recording efforts and performing with countless other New Orleans jazz musicians.