Rivertown Rock and Rivertown Voices
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Rivertown Rock and Rivertown Voices

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The best kept secret in music


November 27, 2005

By Brian Wise
Last year, Al Cattabiani, a Dobbs Ferry entrepreneur and amateur guitarist, had an idea for a business that drew on his lifelong passion for music: a record label to provide an outlet for his work and that of other local musicians.
Calling his new label Garagista Music, after the Italian slang term for a vintner who makes wine in a garage, Mr. Cattabiani, 47, put out a call for submissions last February in local newspapers, on Web sites and by word of mouth.
Within six months, Mr. Cattabiani, who plays guitar in a band called Daddy-O, had received few dozen recordings from bands and solo artists.
He narrowed the submissions to 20 musicians from the river towns, including Yonkers, Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown and Hastings-on-Hudson.  Part of Mr. Cattabiani’s goal for Garagista music is to tap into a community spirit in the Hudson River Valley through the musicians who live there.  He said he believed a CD could serve as kind of community keepsake.
“These being difficult and uneasy times, people in troubled times look to their communities for reassurance,” he said.  “Zeitgeist-wise, this was a good moment to do something.”
The first two CD’s to be issued were “Rivertown Voices,” a compilation featuring jazz and cabaret standards, and “Rivertown Rock,” a collection of folk, rock and blues songs.  The CD’s were released earlier this month and are being distributed at places like coffee shops, grocery stores and hardware stores.  They are available at online retailers like Amazon.com as well as at Garagistamusic.com.
Many of Garagista Music’s contributors are active in various musical groups in the region.  Matt Turk, a guitarist, singer and songwriter from Hastings-on-Hudson, is active with Tribes Hill, an organization of singer-songwriters from the lower Hudson Valley concerned with the environment.  He learned about Mr. Cattabiani’s label through some employees at his local post office.
“I’ve become friendly with the guys at the post office, who are all really into music,” he said.  “Two of the workers had found this posting on the Internet for Rivertown artists and they suggested I send my stuff to them.”
Mr. Turk sent Mr. Cattabiani his self-released CD, from which two songs were selected for the “Rivertown Rock” compilation: a funk-rock song called “Broadway” and the roots-and-reggae tinged “Bette Says.”  Mr. Turk says the label can help show the vitality of the region’s folk and roots-rock scene and showcase artists who may be overlooked by major labels.
Nicole Pasternak, a jazz vocalist, and Ralph Lalama, a tenor saxophonist, a couple from Dobbs Ferry who are featured on two tracks on “Rivertown Voices,” met Mr. Cattabiani through a mutual friend. Mr. Lalama is a member of the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and his own quartet often plays in Manhattan. Ms. Pasternak sings in jazz clubs throughout the region.
“I like the grass roots idea behind it,” she said of the label.  “I like the fact that the label is building something from the ground up – as opposed to artists who are constantly knocking on doors to get attention.”
Next month, Garagista Music will release “In a Word,” a CD by Ms. Pasternak and Mr. Lalama, the first non-compilation disc on the label. 
Not every song on the label is so freshly minted.  Andy Bart, a guitarist and a songwriter who owns The Elegant Poster, an art and frame store in Dobbs Ferry, recorded his song “Letter from London” 15 years ago. Although the original master tapes were lost, he had a cassette tape of the song, which was made into a re-mastered CD.  The song suggests 1970’s folk-rock and has a warm analog sound. 
“I grew up in the Beatles era,” Mr. Bart said.  “To me it’s all about having a good song.  I was very pleased with it all those years ago and I’m still very proud of it.”
Scott Freiman, a business partner in Garagista Music and an owner of Second Act Studios in Irvington, where three of the songs on the label were recorded, says musicians in Westchester tend to be more mature and less ego-driven than those in New York City. 
“They’ve had families, they’ve done the garage band thing,” he said.  “Now, they may be doing it still seriously but with a little more hindsight and more control.”
With his experience in film and media distribution, Mr. Cattabiani says promoting the label will come naturally for him.  In the 1980’s, he ran a company that created PBS Home Video.  In 1993, he was one of the founders of Wellspring Media, a distributor of foreign, documentary and arthouse films. After selling the company in 2004, he formed 1409 Entertainment, a film production and development company based in Dobbs Ferry.
Mr. Cattabiani said he intended to license songs from Garagista Music to films, commercials, and television.  He said he would also like to make songs available as cellphone ring tones, widely considered a major frontier in music distribution - The New York Times

November 10, 2005

By Iris Hiskey Arno

Al Cattabiani, an eclectic entrepreneur and "bar band" guitarist, believes it is within the purview of small communities to provide support and grounding during times of unease and anxiety. Amid troubling global events, "it's a good time to do something local," he says and, by way of example, describes Garagista Music, his new label featuring Rivertown musicians from Yonkers to Tarrytown.

The idea began to take shape about a year ago when Cattabiani's friend, Bruce Bernacchia, co-owner of Harvest on Hudson restaurant in Hastings, referred to himself as a "garagista" - a slang term for someone who (literally or figuratively) makes wine in his or her garage. A labor of love with a local flavor sounded exactly like what Cattabiani, 47, had in mind.

"I thought, ´That would be a cool name for a music label,´ " he remembers. "The idea of trying to find some way to help local musicians get a wider exposure had been knocking around in my head for a while and when Bruce gave me the name, the idea crystallized."

Local retailers are already reporting good sales of the first two CDs, which hit their stores in recent weeks: "Rivertown Voices," presenting eight singers in 13 tracks of cabaret, jazz, and Broadway-style vocalizing, and "Rivertown Rock," highlighting 14 bands in classic, alternative, and country-tinged rock.

With cover art by Ardsley watercolorist Ellen Hopkins Fountain, and a portion of the sales going to support local music education (through the Dobbs Ferry-based Ovation Music Program), Garagista's first offerings are about as local as you can get. And in these parts, that means high quality.
From Brooklyn to Laurel Canyon
Being bold in business is nothing new to Cattabiani, who has been making up jobs for himself throughout his career. After graduating from Adelphi University (where he concentrated on film, TV, radio, and religious studies), the Brooklyn native got his big break in 1988 when Michael Nesmith (of the '60s band The Monkees, which also had a TV show) hired him to run a California film and video distribution company. Helping to create the "special interest" video business (for example, by bringing PBS into the home video market), kept Cattabiani and his new wife in Laurel Canyon, a hip Los Angeles enclave, for four years. At that point, his mother became ill and the couple moved back East, settling in Dobbs Ferry.

"Trying to help my mom got me interested in the subject of holistic health," Cattabiani says. "Although she got good care, the medical system treated her like a carburetor, like a collection of parts, rather than as a whole person."

Needing work, he decided to start his own TV/video/DVD distribution company, Wellspring Media. Specializing in holistic videos and foreign language/art films, the business thrived. In 2003, deciding it was time to move on, Cattabiani sold the Manhattan-based company and moved into 145 Palisade Street where, instead of managing a staff of 50, he has a large, open workspace mostly to himself. There, he continues to produce projects for which Wellspring has first right of refusal (such as a recent documentary exploring the principles shared by peak performers - from CEOs to Nobel Laureates to great musicians).

Cattabiani believes there is a place for a small label to fill a particular need. "Nowadays, there are a lot of smaller acts that can't sell the millions of CDs the corporations demand, and a lot of really talented folks don't get any distribution at all," he says. "Hopefully, a company like Garagista can help."

Once the word got out, submissions came from down the block, down the hall, from strangers, colleagues, neighbors, and even from Cattabiani's own brother. Local artists and musicians recommended their friends and ads in the local papers netted their share of tracks. CDs arrived in the mail, songs were uploaded onto the website (www.garagistamusic.com), and demos were handed to Cattabiani as he walked through town. All in all, he received about 120 tracks from 50 different artists.

Something for everyone
The musicians on "Rivertown Rock" range from SMFK, a band that got together a few years ago while still in high school, to groups made up of "forty- and fifty-somethings" (like Manly Footwear, who dub themselves "gutsy geezer rockers"). All but two of the tunes are originals. Many of the performers can claim some prior success, having plied their trade in venues from rock stadiums to New York clubs like CBGB's and the Bitter End. Some have shared the stage with the likes of The Dave Matthews Band, Pete Seeger, Levon Helm, Cyndi Lauper, Bon Jovi, Pat Benetar, and Average White Band.

Styles range from the modern "alt rock" of Matt Turk, Kristin Mainhart & the Khromozomes, Master of None, and SMFK through the country-flavored rock of Tumbleweed Mile and Daddy-O (Cattabiani's own band). Classic rock is courtesy of Manly Footwear, Catdaddy Jones, and Ed Bettinelli and t - The Rivertowns Enterprise

July 2005

by Rich Mintzer

You never know where you'll find the latest musicians. With that in mind, Al Cattabiani, a musician himself, decided he'd start his own label called Garagista Music and seek out talented bands and solo performers in the river towns of Westchester, including Yonkers, Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown and Hastings-on-the-Hudson.

The search kicked off just after the start of 2005 with ads in local newspapers. Word of mouth spread the message throughout the community of musicians in the various communities. As a result, Cattabiani was soon receiving plenty of submissions from bands and solo performers. The styles of music were as diverse as the people who were sending them, ranging from hobbyists and housewives to weekend warriors. Newcomers and long-time veterans all sent in their own tracks, many recorded at local studios. Within a month, Garagista was well stocked with excellent tracks. "We have more than our fair share of excellent musicians in this area," says Cattabiani, who looks forward to introducing several of these artists to a much wider audience courtesy of the label's first two CD releases. "We decided to start off with two compilation CD's," explains Cattabiani. "One will be alternative rock and the other will be a jazz cabaret release." The two CD's should be available by August and will be distributed throughout retailers in the Hudson Valley, as well as at gigs by the featured performers and on the label's web site, www.garagistamusic.com.

With far less fanfare than Randy, Paula and Simon get as "American Idol" judges, Cattabiani and other music types, including several weekend warrior musicians, avid listeners and other professionals in the business, served as judges and whittled the choice down to the best tracks from among the numerous selections.

Garagista, which is Italian slang for a local vintner who literally, or figuratively makes wine in his (or her) garage, essentially implies a homemade flavor, which in this case, is locally created music. Cattabiani chose the term to define his passion for the local music, and community of musicians, of which he is a part. However, for Cattabiani the road to the river towns was across the country and back. "I've been playing in bands since I was 14, " says Cattabiani, now 47. From New York City to California and back east to Westchester, he's played a wide range of styles with a number of bands over the years. "I like pop-oriented rock," he says, of his own musical preference. "I was influenced by the Beatles, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads and more recently groups like the Fountains of Wayne. I like the three minute pop song, but over the years I've played anything that would get me a gig," adds Cattabiani, in the true never-say-die spirit of a long time professional musician.

For Cattabiani, Garagista is half business and half passion. His years in the media distribution end of the film business are the impetus for several marketing ideas for the new record label. "The ring tone business is new. It will be interesting to see where it goes. Right now there's a lot of talk about delivering songs as ring tones, but it's still a bit premature," explains Cattabiani, who also sees potential for movie and television soundtracks. There will also be direct download distribution of songs on the web site and potentially alliances with local businesses to support and promote Garagista artists and CD's. "After the initial compilations, I'd like to work with some bands on their own releases and also set up recurring Garagista Music Nights at a local venue which could feature the artists. There are several nice venues in the area but we haven't approached any yet," explains Cattabiani, who wants to wait until he has the finished CD's in hand.

While developing Garagista Music, Cattabiani is also working on developing holistic television programs with the company he co-founded and recently sold, Wellspring Media.
One of the artists presented on the Garagista rock CD compilation, Matt Turk, ties his music into creating global peace. Turk, a singer song/songwriter from Hastings-on-the-Hudson, has been involved in the spider project, sponsored by UJA, JCC and the Jewish Agency of Israel, which brings teens from Westchester and Jerusalem through music. Influenced by a wide range of talents from the Beatles to Harry Chapin to poet Alan Ginsberg, Turk is a socially conscious performer who has something to say in his lyrics. Musically, he's been compared to a wide range of artists from David Bowie to Jackson Browne and when he's not out on the road performing, he can often be heard playing at the Celtic Corner in Dobbs Ferry.

Also on the rock compilation is Cory Morgenstern, who's still rocking after some 30 years in the business. A keyboard and guitar player, Cory teaches music throughout Hastings-on-the-Hudson but has always made the time to be part of the band. Formerly with Housewives on Prozac and then Gre - The Westchester County Times




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