In Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Levee the trumpeter can hear the sound of the new–and it’s driving him crazy that blues empress Ma Rainey won’t let him play it. Sure, the other bandmates (Toledo on the keys, bone man Cutler and Slow Drag on bass) counsel moderation–and appeasement–before a Chicago recording gig in the 1920s. But one look at Levee and you just know: Something’s gotta give. The play that started August Wilson’s century project–to write one play about every decade of the African-American experience during the 20th century–starts Thursday at N.C. State’s University Theatre. Call 515-1100 for tickets. –Byron Woods