As Johnny Vidacovich stood on-stage talking to the crowd gathered to hear hometown favorite Astral Project at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the group's drummer epitomized the New Orleans musician's sensibility: relaxed, unpretentious, and great. And when he sang about the passing of the old ways in "Old Folks," you could tell he meant it. Drawing on the musical heritage of New Orleans, Johnny Vidacovich has become one of the best drummers in a city known for its drummers. Born and bred in New Orleans, Vidacovich has the city's unique, syncopated backbeat running in his veins. Many outsiders have sought to imitate that sound which comes so naturally to those who grew up exposed to the Big Easy's street music traditions. One can hear the beat of the street in multifarious places, from the music of the Mardi Gras Indians to the Neville Brothers to Vidacovich himself. He is the quintessential New Orleans jazz drummer, with all the exuberance and skill befitting one who grew up in the birthplace of jazz.
Since starting to play the drums at the age of ten, performing has been the passion of Johnny Vidacovich. From French Quarter clubs to the big stages, he has shared his talents with greats like New Orleans' "Tan Canary" Johnny Adams, Professor Longhair, and Mose Allison, and as a member of Astral Project. The seminal New Orleans contemporary jazz group, Astral Project has been taking its audiences to higher planes of reality for several decades. The loose affiliation finds its members doing their own thing and returning to renew their musical acquaintanceship with each other. Each player is a master in his own right: Steve Mazakowski on the guitar willed to him by the late, great Danny Barker; James Singleton, at one with his bass; Tony Dagradi, the essence of cool on the saxophone; wild man David Torkanowsky on the piano; and Vidacovich on the drums.
Astral Project started out in the '70s, jamming at the venerable Absinthe House on Bourbon Street, with Bobby McFerrin often sitting in. Gigs at Snug Harbor and the New Orleans Jazz Fest won them a devoted local following, which has expanded to international acclaim. The musicians have continued to hone their skills individually and collectively in live gigs and recording sessions.
The group's first CD, Dreams of Love (now out of print) was released in 1987, and things have been on the upswing ever since. The ensemble's live CD, Astral Project, introduced the artists to audiences in far flung places like New York, L.A., and Europe, and established their reputation as pushers of the envelope in the jazz idiom.
Meanwhile, Vidacovich continued to gig and record with other musicians until he became the most sought after drummer in the city of New Orleans. He also paid his dues in New York, where he received rave reviews. Vidacovich has been recognized by everything from the Big Easy Entertainment Awards to accolades in Offbeat and Downbeat and the New York Times, to an appearance on the NPR show of fellow New Orleanian Branford Marsalis, Jazz Profiles.
It is in improvisation that his abilities show to greatest advantage. Always sensitive to the shifting sands of jazz, the drum maestro may mix it up with reggae, bebop, street beat, and blues rhythms in the course of one tune, as he follows the lead of one of his collaborators. The lightning speed with which he morphs from one style to another as the occasion requires can be heard on CDs such as Astral Project's Voodoo Bop and Elevado; his own Mystery Street, and Banks Street; and We Came To Play with George Porter Jr.
He is also a highly regarded teacher and educator whose past students include Stanton Moore and Brian Blade. He has been a longtime faculty member at Loyola University and the University of New Orleans. Johnny and his wife Deborah maintain the Tipitina’s Sunday music workshops where younger students can come play with the pros on Sundays at Tip’s.
Johnny played the first and every New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (which just celebrated its 44th anniversary) and has become a fixture on the New Orleans music scene. He has 4 records under his own name and an instructional book and DVD focusing on his approach to New Orleans drumming. He continues to maintain an active playing, touring and teaching schedule, both in New Orleans and all over the world via Skype.
Year Album Artist
2015Music Is LovePapa Mali 2013Advice from a Father to a SonScott Ramminger 2012In New OrleansWilly DeVille 2011A Nod to Bob, Vol. 2: Nod to Bob: An Artists' Tribute to Bob Dylan on His 70th Birthday 2010The Rounder Records Story 2009Dirty PowerShane Theriot 2009Essential Recordings: The Great Johnny Adams Jazz AlbumJohnny Adams 2008Cure AllRobert Walter 2008Red House 25: A Silver Anniversary Retrospective 2007City of Dreams: A Collection of New Orleans Music 2007Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino 2007Umbrella ManScott Albert Johnson 2006More or Less Jazz Two 2006The Great Johnny Adams R&B AlbumJohnny Adams 2005A Celebration of New Orleans Music to Benefit the Musicares Hurricane Relief 2005Super Heavy OrganRobert WalterCymbals, 2005The Great Johnny Adams Blues AlbumJohnny Adams 2005Voice of the WetlandsTab Benoit 2004Alan Lomax's Southern Journey RemixedTangle Eye 2004Byrd LivesProfessor Longhair 2004Funk: The Language of New Orleans, Vol. 8 2004StrutMichael Kaeshammer 2004The Essential CollectionBill Morrissey 2003Box of the Blues Rounder Records 2003Grease FactorShane Theriot 2003LouisianthologyTom McDermott 2003Mardi Gras: Language of New Orleans, Vol. 7 2003ScrapomaticScrapomatic 2003Trip to New OrleansVahag Petian 2003We Came to Play Vidacovich Porter Yamagishi 2003With Fessor's Funky New OrleaniansThais Clark 2002Piano FaceJohn Autin 2002VidacovichJohnny Vidacovich 2001No Strings AttachedMichael Kaeshammer 2000For JoeSteve Masakowski 2000There Is Always One More TimeJohnny Adams 1999Dear JoPhil Parnell 1999Living RoomAnders Osborne 1999The Orleans Records StoryOrleans Record Story 1999Tryin' to Make a Little LoveMichelle Willson 1999Voodoo BopAstral Project 1998Blues: The Language of New Orleans, Vol. 3 1998Dedicated to YouClarence Johnson III 1998ElevadoAstral Project 1998Jazz: Language of New Orleans, Vol. 2 1998JazznocracyAl Belletto 1998Modern New Orleans Jazz Masters 1997Astral ProjectAstral Project 1997Banks StreetJohnny Vidacovich 1997Game of ChanceRick Margitza 1997Jazz ProfileMose Allison 1997Music, Vol. 1: Language of New Orleans 1997Mystery StreetJohnny Vidacovich 1997We Got It Goin' OnMambo Brothers 1996All of MeHarry Connick, Sr. 1996Bill DeraimeBill Deraime 1996Blue OrleansTim Laughlin 1996LoyaltiesChuck Bergeron 1996Stargeezer"Spider" John Koerner 1996World Christmas [Capitol] 1996Worth the PriceLenny McDaniel 1996You'll Never Get to HeavenBill Morrissey 1995But... BeautifulLillian Boutté 1995Live at the ColumnsTony Dagradi 1995Night OwlMambo Brothers 1995The Pfister SistersThe Pfister Sisters 1995Time for LovePhillip Manuel 1994Allison Wonderland: AnthologyMose Allison 1994Liquid Fire: The Best of John ScofieldJohn Scofield 1994Tribute to Edith Piaf [Amherst] 1993Fess: The Professor Longhair AnthologyProfessor Longhair 1993Good Morning HeartacheJohnny Adams 1993What It WasSteve Masakowski 1992Pictures And PaintingsCharlie Rich 1992Remember MeRoland Stone 1992TestimonyJohn Mooney 1991Johnny Adams Sings Doc Pomus: The Real MeJohnny Adams 1990Charles Neville & DiversityCharles Neville 1990Gramavision 10th Anniversary SamplerDrums 1990My BackyardMose Allison 1990The Creole Christmas 1990Victory MixtureWilly DeVille 1989Walking on a Tightrope: The Songs of Percy MayfieldJohnny Adams 1988Blues Bred in the BoneRay Anderson 1988Dreams of LoveTony Dagradi 1988Flat OutJohn Scofield 1988Steppin' OutDavid Torkanowsky 1987Louisiana Scrapbook Various Artists 1986GraciouslyAlvin "Red" Tyler 1986HeritageAlvin "Red" Tyler 1985Looking BackZachary Richard 1985Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill 1985Out of the Blue [Rykodisc] 1983Lunar EclipseTony Dagradi 1982ClassifiedJames Booker 1980Crawfish FiestaProfessor Longhair 1977AngelleAngelle Trosclair 1976 The Complete Remastered Recordings on Dischi Della QuerciaGiorgio Gaslini