Saxophonist, Tony Dagradi, is an internationally recognized jazz performer, composer, author and educator.

For over three decades he has made his home in New Orleans, performing on tenor and soprano sax with many of the Crescent City's most celebrated artists, including Ellis Marsalis, Allen Toussaint, James Booker, The Meters, Dr. John, James Black, Johnny Adams and Gatemouth Brown. An accomplished classical performer as well, he's often called upon to augment the woodwind section of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. His performing past also includes five years as a member of the internationally acclaimed Carla Bley band and appearances with Bobby McFerrin, Mose Allison and Nat Adderly.

Dagradi is most well known for his work with Astral Project, an adventurous quintet made up of top New Orleans players dedicated to playing cutting-edge improvisational music. Over the years the band has performed throughout the world, garnering universal praise as one of the most innovative, compelling jazz bands anywhere.

Since 1990 Dagradi has been a Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies at Loyola University in New Orleans where he maintains a large saxophone studio, teaches classes in improvisation, and directs various ensembles.  


Growing up in a New Jersey suburb, Tony Dagradi began playing alto saxophone as part of his elementary school music program. At age thirteen, he switched to tenor andbegan the process of discovering and studying the many facets of jazz. He often traveled into Manhattan to hear music at various hot spots. By the time he was in high school he was transcribing solos, performing with local groups, and writing arrangements for the school band and local theater companies.

In 1970, with a scholarship from Downbeat magazine, Dagradi enrolled at Berklee College of Music where he studied with Andy McGhee, Phil Wilson, Herb Pomeroy, Charlie Mariano and Gary Burton. After two years he left school to work full time and practice. During this period, he co-led an experimental quartet called “Inner Visions” with trombonist Gary Valente. The group performed at various jazz venues in Boston and featured bassist Ed Schuller and at different times D Sharpe and Anton Fig on drums.

Becoming frustrated with the music scene in the New England area, Dagradi chose to accept an engagement on the road. His travels eventually brought him to New Orleans where he found a vital and diverse musical culture.

He soon signed on with the late great Professor Longhair and appeared on the rock and roll pioneer’s last three recordings. Since then, he has performed with virtually every important musical figure in the Crescent City. His soulful tenor saxophone has been heard in concert and on recordings with Ellis Marsalis, Gatemouth Brown, Tommy Ridgely, James Black, Snooks Eaglin, Alan Toussaint, Johnny Adams, Wardell Querzerque, George Porter, Al Hirt, Dr. John and Phillip Manuel to name only a few.

In 1980, Dagradi began a five year association with avant garde composer, Carla Bley. Working with Bley gave the saxophonist his first international exposure in a top notch working ensemble.

At about the same time, Dagradi’s talents caught the attention of Jonathan Rose, founder of the then fledgling Gramavision Records. Rose invited Dagradi to join his label, which resulted in three highly regarded recordings.

Dagradi’s most essential musical connection is with a collective of high powered jazz artists from the Crescent City known as Astral Project. Founded by Dagradi, in 1978, Astral Project has established itself as the most exciting and consistently innovative contemporary jazz ensemble in the area. The group which includes John Vidacovich on drums, James Singleton on bass and Steve Masakowski on guitar, recently celebrated the release of it’s seventh CD, “Blue Streak.” The dynamic solos and almost telepathic communication that has developed on the bandstand over the years are clearly evident on the new disc and point to new directions for the future.

On the national scene, Tony has appeared with Bobby McFerrin, Mose Allison, Nat Adderley, Eddie Harris, Cedar Walton, Dave Liebmann, Bobby Previte and a host of others. His distinctive playing style can be heard on recordings with Bley, Longhair, Allison, Marsalis, Astral Project, his own CDs as a leader and a multitude of other independent projects.

Today, Dagradi divides his time between performing in a wide variety of settings, writing and teaching. He has often been voted “Best Saxophonist” in New Orleans’ Offbeat magazine readers poll. He has also been the recipient of numerous fellowships and artistic awards, including grants from the Louisiana Division of Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Foundation, Loyola University and the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans.

Since 1990 Dagradi has been a Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies at Loyola University in New Orleans where he maintains a large saxophone studio, teaches classes in improvisation, and directs various ensembles. At the same time, he keeps up a busy performance schedule. Working as a leader, with Astral Project, or as a sideman, Dagradi appears at jazz festivals and venues around the world.

“Tony Dagradi is the optimal front man. His singing tenor and soprano saxophone style is a compendium of jazz history, blending the verbose blues of CannonballAdderley with more current “outside” trends.”
- James Rozzi, Jazziz

“Dagradi is one of the best unacknowledged tenors around.”
- Mike Fish, Wired Magazine

"Tony Dagradi runs harmonic mazes with aplomb. (On tenor, Dagradi is virile and fleet, on soprano he's a pastoral piper - take your pick)." 
- Chris Waddington, 

 “A fiercely compelling improviser (and) an accomplished composer.”
- Bill Milkowski, Downbeat

“…spiritually intense tenor.” – Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

"Dagradi wrings each note for all its is worth, striving for simplicity as he makes each solo a song unto itself." – Gene Kalbacher, New Jersey Notes

“Dagradi plays with exuberance and power.” – Cadence

“Dagradi’s technique on soprano and especially tenor is evocative and exultant. Like so many tenor players, Dagradi speaks of a period when he was ‘totally immersed in Trane.’ To his credit, the…saxophonist manages to capture the spiritual strength Coltrane so elegantly epitomized.”
- Norman Provizer, Jazziz

“One gets the impression, when listening to Dagradi, of being in the presence of a great storyteller and the music asserts that feeling. More than anything else Dagradi gives the essence of freedom and fire without a feeling of too much looseness. Also, it is important to mention Dagradi’s strong feel for rhythm. He makes it his own, including a great control of dynamics…a highly gifted and uncompromising saxophonist.”
- Tim Price, Saxophone Journal