Tony Dagradi Biography
Tony Dagradi is an internationally recognized jazz performer, artist, composer, author and educator.
For over three decades he has made his home in New Orleans, performing on tenor and soprano saxophone with many of the Crescent City's most celebrated artists, including Ellis Marsalis, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, James Booker, The Meters, Dr. John, James Black, Johnny Adams and Gatemouth Brown. His performing past also includes five years as a member of the internationally acclaimed Carla Bley Band and appearances and recordings with Bobby McFerrin, Mose Allison and Nat Adderley.
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. In addition, for over twenty five years, he has been a Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies at Loyola University in New Orleans.
Since 2015, Dagradi has been exploring the compelling visual possibilities of altered books. Choosing vintage and antiquarian texts, he carefully cuts through one page at a time to reveal existing images in a three dimensional collage or sculpture. The results allow the contents and imagery of long outdated material to be viewed in a manner that is both exciting and thought provoking.
Tony Dagradi Statement
When I begin a piece, I examine each book to get a feel for the content and, to a lesser degree, the placement of that content. Moving forward, I have several stategies which will allow me to expose images, ultimately bringing them together in a unified composition.
In my first method of choice, I seal the edges of the book and begin cutting page by page, removing everything but the images that appeal to me. This can be very exciting as I never know what will appear next or how it will compliment the piece as a whole. In my mind, it is very similar to improvising with a jazz ensemble. Inevitably, during every performance each player interjects his or her own commentary. No two performances are ever the same and everyone must react to what is happening at the moment. Similary, as I cut through the pages of a book, I must react to whatever appears, choosing to keep or reject what presents itself. If continued to it’s logical conclusion, all of the material is exactly where it has always been, but now can be viewed in a totally different way.
Another approach I take is selecting images from a book and placing them as I please to more finely control the composition. From a viewer’s point of view, the end result is almost identical to that of the pure excavation process. Most of the pieces in my “Jazz” series and “Fantasy” series are assembled in this manner.
Finally, when a piece is completed, I coat exposed surface with an acrylic lacquer. This treatment adds a certain rigidity to the paper sculpture and serves to protect it from air and dust.