Gemini Rising - Offbeat Magazine

In the late '80s, Tony Dagradi played and recorded with the New Orleans Saxophone Ensemble, an all-star group that was modeled after the internationally renowned World Saxophone Quartet.  It included the late Earl Turbinton and Fred Kemp plus baritone saxophonist Roger Lewis.

Gemini Rising uses a similar concept though with a major twist.  Dagradi performs all the horn parts - soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones - accompanied by a single drummer.  Herlin Riley, Johnny Vidacovich and Troy Davis take turns at the drum set on an album of all Dagradi compositions with the exception of the standard "Monk's Mood."

Seeral of the tunes such as the title cut and the celebratory "Mandela" will be familiar to fans of astral Project, the modern jazz institution that Dagradi formed back in 1978.  In fact, "Gemini Rising" was even recorded by the New Orleans Saxophone Ensemble on the 1988 Rounder release, New New Orleans Music, as well as covered by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.  Naturally, the rather unusual instrumentation and refreshed arrangements heard on this Dagradi project give them as well as the previously unrecorded tunes a unique flavor.

Each drummer brings his own spirit and expertise to the material that moves from swinging to funky, to street beats and even a tango.  These changes of styles, rhythms and moods offer enough variations to keep the music moving.  Surprisingly, perhaps, there are no drum solos on the album.

Always a saxophonist of invention, Dagradi has really become a master of the baritone.  He holds down the bottom with rhythmic determination and melodic interest as he accompanies, well, himself.

Gemini Rising looks back to the past for inspiration and forward to the future for new ways to hear and explore jazz.

- Geraldine Wycoff, June 2014