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"Interview: The Rapt...err...The Sarah Pedinotti Band"

Although they stole my heart during their short stint as The Raptors, The Artists Now Known Again As The Sarah Pedinotti Band ultimately decided not to stick with the daringly Cretaceous name. Read why below, and then find a way to be at one (or, preferably, both) of the following two shows to see first hand what all the fuss is about.

One last thing. As you read the interview, play this. Over and over and over.
The Sarah Pedinotti Band - Julio (mp3)

Mike McClenathan: Who are The Raptors?

Sarah Pedinotti: We're now the Sarah Pedinotti Band. We're still looking around for the right name. We've looked under garbage cans and in newspapers; the boys come over regularly, pick up any book off my shelf and shout out random words. One day, we were talking about T.Rex and Chris (the drummer) said, half-joking "how about the Raptors." We all stopped what we were doing. It seemed familiar but good and we thought it had to be taken. And it is. "The Raptors" are a Canadian Basketball team that rarely wins... BUT we became The Raptors for a little over a week too. It felt good.

Now to answer your question: The group of keen-sighted, flesh-eating birds and ferocious dinosaurs known as The Sarah Pedinotti Band consist of: Tony Markellis (bass), Chris Kyle (guitar), Chris Carey (drums) Dave Payette (piano) and me.

MM: How long have you been playing together?

SP: Dave, Chris Carey and I have been playing together since high school.
Tony joined in the summer of 2006. We added Chris Kyle in the fall of 2007.

MM: How did the decision to change your name come about?

SP: Well, my last name is difficult for most people when they're sober. Something about four syllable names, they're too perplexing for the mind to handle. But since we're back to being The Sarah Pedinotti Band, for now, I just think of how much people love Luciano Pavarotti. It makes me feel better.

MM: Comparisons are all but necessary evils when it comes to getting the word out about great new music, but I hate making them too much to do it directly myself. So here's this: your bio mentions recent comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, Jacque Brel, Dr. John and Tom Waits. I'm sure there have been scores of other comparisons as well. Which do you find the most flattering?

SP: I find the ones you mentioned the most flattering. Especially Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. And since this industry calls for braggarts, they're mentioned in my bio. What my bio doesn't mention is that I hate being compared to Pee-wee Herman. Actually that has never happened. But if it did, I'd be pissed.

MM: Because every conversation I have with anyone always ends up here and at least this time we have a reasonable transition to it, let's focus on the Springsteen comparison for just a minute. Your songs, like his, are full of vividly developed characters. Where does the inspiration for a character like Michael (from "Julio") come from?

SP: I met this man in the Albany bus station. I was in the cafeteria, sitting in an orange-colored booth between the jukebox and the video games. The air was sticky with the smell of hot dogs cooking on a dirty grill. I was reading Down and Out in Paris and London and he came walking up to me. He was a short, tough-looking Latino man. He wore all black, a black bandana on his head, faded black jeans, black leather boots. It was hard to tell his age because his skin was so rugged. He had many tattoos (including a teardrop on his left eye) and plenty of scars. He asked me for a pen and said he'd give it right back. I quickly rummaged for one and told him to keep it.

He came back minutes later and asked me what I was reading. He said, "Oh, George Orwell, like 1984 and Animal Farm." I must have looked impressed because he sat down across from me and proceeded to tell me his whole life story. He said he was never interested in books until he escaped the law, riding solo on boxcars and hitchhiking to Mexico. Reading was the only entertainment he had back then. He didn't know anyone outside of New York City and he was only fourteen when he ran away.

Long story short, I missed my bus. I found myself simultaneously freaked out by the man who claimed to be a mass killer and enthralled with his story. It was like talking with a jungle cat. I felt frozen in time, watching his pitch-black eyes flash like lighting while he spoke. He was less a socio-path and more an emotional wreck with a tough-as-nails exterior, born into the wrong neighborhood.

Meeting him took awhile to process. But months later, during an earsplitting thunderstorm, I woke up out of a deep sleep and wrote down the song in 10 minutes. No joke. Maybe I was electrocuted.

MM: Saratoga Springs, NY looks like it's as close to Montreal as it is to NYC on a map. What's it like to be a band there?

SP: Saratoga is a strange and sometimes beautiful place. In the summer it turns into a touristy freak show. It actually is home to the oldest organized sporting venue of any kind in the US, the Saratoga Race Course. So every year when it gets warm, horses, gamblers, cigars and big hats follow. A lot of people like to get drunk here. That's sort of the underlying disorganized sport that takes place around these parts.

But there's beauty too. The mineral water is supposedly sacred, we're at the foothills of the Adirondacks, there's a community of artists and musicians, and a farmer's market. And that's why we're here. That and drunks seem love us and tip us more.

MM: What's the local beverage of choice?

SP: Most drinks are popular. All I know is the non-alcoholic beer doesn't sell. I drink whiskey from time to time. It's good for the voice.

MM: Being in a band is cool. What's the coolest thing about being in your band?

SP: We're good friends who share a passion. I can honestly say I love my band mates. Every single one of them is brilliant in their own strange way. Chris Carey has boundless amounts of energy. He can make the best and most realistic farting noises with his armpits. He has a talent for turning any inanimate object into a musical instrument and he actually makes everything sound good. Dave is nocturnal and sleeps in a cave like batman. He has perfect pitch and can probably read minds. Chris Kyle is a badass with a heart of gold. He’s got a scar on his lip from a pit bull that attacked him at a gas station and yet he can’t wait to have a dog of his own. He’s soulful and wild like a Buddhist monk on a motorcycle.

And Tony? I bet he’s played on every stage, stadium, theatre, basement, living room, bathroom and kitchen in the universe. With every famous, infamous and unknown person I can think of. He’s gotten fancy treatment on tour, sleeping in 5-star hotels, signing hundreds of autographs and he’s dealt with the shit, sleeping in vans after playing hole-in-the-wall bars. Now he’s playing with us. That shows dedication.

[Buy the album at CD Baby]
[myspace.com/sarahpedinotti] - MIKE MCCLENATHAN - www.wealsoran.com

"The Raptors - The Living Room, 2/16/08"

The Raptors - The Living Room, 2/16/08

"We're called The Raptors," Sarah Pedinotti was saying to the comfortably packed house, "like the dinosaur. The second most vicious dinosaur. We would've been the first, but T. Rex is already a band. A really good one."

"Isn't she so cute?" the lady behind me was asking her date. "Isn't she so funny?" I would've been more annoyed if I didn't completely agree, and if I weren't so busy bemusedly recapping in my head all of the serendipitous discoveries I've made at The Living Room. I swear to God, every time I go there someone good is playing. And every once in a while, someone great is playing.

It just so happened that on this particular Saturday night, just as I was getting ready to call it an early night, the crowd began to swell in familiar anticipation, coaxing me to stay a little longer. "One song," I said. "We've got seats, there's no reason not to give them one song." An hour later I found myself unable to remain seated as I applauded, glancing hopefully up at the sound booth, hoping to see the sound guy give a permissive nod, hoping for one more song.

The Sarah Pedinotti Band has been performing as a unit for some time, but that fateful Saturday night was, I believe, their first show under their new moniker. Something about "the hatching." They played a bluesy brand of folk rock, delivered crisply, competently, and with a we-know-exactly-how-good-we-are swagger. They left me breathless.

Sarah can write, she can sing, and she owns the stage. Her lyrics are whip-crack smart, and she's mesmerizing all the way up and down her dynamic range. The band? Glad you asked. The drummer's done time in the Empire State Youth Orchestra, the bassist's played in one of Trey Anastasio's bands, as well as with David Bromberg and a host of others, and the keyboardist is an accomplished jazz pianist. The guitarist's resume doesn't shine quite as brightly, but he makes up for it by rocking the shit out of shit. These guys can play. Really really play. Throughout the course of the night I caught myself, slack-jawed and breathing through my mouth, in awe at each of them at least once.

I wish you could have heard what I heard Saturday night. I wish you could have seen what I saw. Since you can't, you'll have to settle for some songs streaming at myspace.com/sarahpedinotti (I guess they haven't gotten around to changing the URL yet), which pale in comparison to their live counterparts, but which will have to do. Listen to "Limousine" and "Locomotive" first. - MIKE MCCLENATHAN - www.wealsoran.com

"Railbird crafts a clever, timeless album"

The artist formerly known as Sarah Pedinotti now has a new project (mostly the old band with a new name) called Railbird. On the first release under that moniker, the Saratoga Springs chanteuse, along with longtime co-horts Chris Carey on drums and bass monster Tony Markellis (known for his work with Trey Anasatsio) have crafted a clever, timeless CD, where even the graphics and liner notes seem to have been given as much thought as the songs themselves.

Recorded at (you guessed it) NRS studios in Catskill, Pedinotti uses the old railroad system as a metaphor for a dream, a vision, a way of life. The songs are top shelf, starting with “Coping Mechanism No. 1,” where she wails on the harp as if her life depended on it. The circular “Intangible Age” and “Silver Screen Heroes” — a dreamy ode to bigger-than-life folks — are highlights, as is the Appalachian stomp of “Born On A Railroad,” which features a deliciously dark-slide guitar by Chris Kyle, and Carey chiming in on vocals for contrast and texture.

Her harmonica comes back raging in rocking blues in “Limousine” with grit and growl in her voice and a juicy jam. The timeless “Rain Song” sounds like it was recorded nearby at Big Pink; in fact, Dylan and The Band are a constant touchstone here. The easy shuffle of “Little Johnny” and “Ghost” make her sound like Patti Smith as the band blasts and falls apart in complete chaos.


Railbird is textbook Americana. The name may have been changed, but it’s still all about Sarah. Her unique voice, sideways perspective and uncanny originality is something to behold.

Visit www.myspace.com/sarahpedinotti.

- The Daily Freeman, By DAVID MALACHOWSKI,

"Amplifier Magazine: RAILBIRD Live at CAFE 939 - BOSTON, MA"

Headlining the night was Upstate (Saratoga Springs) New York’s Railbird, featuring Sarah Pedinotti—who has fronted a couple of different bands over the last few years—on vocals and several other instruments; guitarist Chris Kyle (who also played other instruments); a drummer (who also played guitar); and a bassist. The players shifted instruments regularly and started with “Coping Mechanism #1,” which, in its bluesy, rootsy feel, set the tone for the evening’s performance and saw Pedinotti flexing her vocal muscles by jumping up in register at a few choice moments. She put a blues seal on the song by laying down her acoustic and playing a few strains on the harmonica at its end, before picking up a tambourine on the next song—which saw the band’s drummer handle the kick-drum while playing the just-used guitar.

With her naturally dark-toned, wizened voice and Kyle’s heavy guitar, it’s easy to compare Pedinotti’s and the group’s sound on the whole to Bob Dylan’s—probably most à propos when talking about the rock icon’s grittier work. Pedinotti and her bandmates do add some light touches: she employing a toy piano on one song while the drummer/guitarist harmonizes with her, and he impressively sprinkling in some harmonica and beats from a djembe. It’s also worth noting that on occasion, Pedinotti sings into a voice distorter, to dazzling effect. “Ghost” is a haunting, deep blues tune off the new record which sees Pedinotti shake a necklace of what appeared to be stones against the dark, dub guitar-picking provided by Kyle.

About halfway through the set, the band launched into one of Pedinotti’s older selections—“a twisted little love song about two people with multiple personalities falling in love,” as she described it beforehand, and for which she strums a toy-size guitar, singing “Me and me and me and you and you and you,” to the delight of longtime fans in the room. After jamming on the title track of her previous album, City Bird, Kyle and Pedinotti combine to sing a duet on the guitarist’s own “Born on a Railroad” - a hardscrabble portrait of his time spent on train cars that served as a de facto anthem for this ragtag set of musicians. “Limousine” is a funky, blues-inflected tune that saw Pedinotti descending into the crowd and shakin’ her tailfeather with a few concertgoers during Kyle’s impressive guitar solo.

Railbird’s encore included jangly, muscular guitars and hand-clapping between band and audience, before segueing into a night-capping funked-out, roots-jam. The virtuosity displayed by Railbird went a long way towards spicing up the normal Americana, blues-rock lineup. All in all, Pedinotti and her able supporting cast purveyed a swaggering roots-rock blend, leaving one with the impression of hearing The Band jam with a long-lost female member (in past Pedinotti shows they’ve done a boisterous version of “Up On Cripple Creek,” though not this time); if the group continues coupling strong, searing songwriting with textured vocals and instrumental riffs, they’ll keep their ever-growing audiences clamoring for more.

--Andrew Palmacci [March 9, 2009] - Amplifier Magazine: FEBRUARY 13, 2009

"Year in Music 2005 - 2008"

Billboard Year In Music 2008
"Railbird - A great indie band set to break out."

The 10 Best Albums of 2007
“Sarah Pedinotti, "City Bird" (Self-released)
An aptly-titled creative leap for this promising young singer/songwriter who
staged her first showcase tour of New York and Boston this year.

Year in Music 2006
Sarah Pedinotti, "Masters of War," a young singer's performance of an all-too-relevant classic, both riveting and heartbreaking, at the Freihofer's Jazz Festival, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., June 24.

Year in Music 2005
“Sarah Pedinotti, "One Mirror" (Self-released). A striking second album from a talented young singer/songwriter on the rise.”

Billboard Magazine - Thom Duffy

- Billboard Magazine

"Press Quotes - Times Union"

Times Union - Greg Haymes

“Great songs, fabulous band, dynamic performer -- Pedinotti has got the whole package.” (December 27, 2007)

She's got a wonderful, distinctive voice. She's got charisma to spare and an uncommon command onstage. She's got a truly versatile band with an inventive approach and solid groove. She's got more than three albums' worth of thoroughly captivating, intriguing original songs. She's Sarah Pedinotti, and if you haven't heard of her yet, well, you're going to.” 
(June 10, 2007)


- Greg Haymes

"City Bid Review - Chronogram"

CD Review: Sarah Pedinotti
City Bird
by David Malachowski, October 29, 2007

Saratoga Springs songbird Sarah Pedinotti’s exquisite new release often has a latent New Orleans feel and pulse, but regularly goes to other exotic locales as well, skipping across genres like a stone on a still pond. Her literate lyrics live in tunes that are more like mini-movies or cinematic short stories than mere songs, and she’s supported by the illustrious Tony Markellis on bass, Dave Payette on piano, and Chris Carey on drums.

First on the menu, a wiry guitar announces “Train Song,” which sets the tone with its spicy French Quarter feel. “Je Me Souviens de Toi” has Jacque Brel leanings, with a slow-burn, bump-and-grind bridge for flair. The joyful “Romeo Sadface” is catchy and commercial, and holds more hooks then a tackle box. “Julio” has a Springsteen desolate-boardwalk vibe, as does the dark and delicious “Rain-Colored Highway.” Both are equal parts recitation and singing, in a Dr. John or Tom Waits manner. “Margaret and Barbara” features a haunting verse that falls into a hip-hop chorus, “Please Leave Me Be” has country flavors, and the title track, “City Bird,” takes it all home.
With Pedinotti’s impeccable back phrasing, clever production, and amazing arrangements, this release surely raises the bar for regional recordings. One of the best, if not the best local CD in years, it’ll surely make waves far beyond the region.


- David Malachowski

"Metroland, The Alternative Newsweekly of New York’s Capital Region"

Voted Best Vocalist 2007: “She’s been described as a singer with star potential. Sarah Pedinotti has a voice and style all her own. With a showcase at the Egg earlier this year, and the record labels lapping at her door, Pedinotti’s future is so bright, you should catch her now while she still plays weekly in her Saratoga hometown. Wear shades.”

“beloved Saratoga-based vocalist Sarah Pedinotti turned heads on a national level with her City Bird disc.” (December, 2007)

Metroland-Railbird Profile
By Kirsten Ferguson

From singing bus girl to acclaimed new artist, Sarah Pedinotti is making the most of her unusual musical education

She’s got a backstory that any reporter or record label could love. From the age of 12, Sarah Pedinotti spent many nights in her family’s Saratoga Springs jazz bistro, One Caroline Street, where the budding singer bussed tables and sang jazz standards along with leading players in the jazz world. Acclaimed local pianist Lee Shaw took Pedinotti under her wing and would invite the teenager up to sing during Shaw’s One Caroline sets. And during the summers from 1996 to 1998, members of the Wynton Marsalis Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra would show up at the bistro to blow off steam after playing at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Those spontaneous, anything-goes sets by pianist Eric Lewis, trumpeter Marcus Printup and drummer Ali Jackson were a revelation to jazz lovers in attendance, including Pedinotti. “After hours they would be full of this energy and music and they would come to One Caroline and want to jam,” she says. “They would play wherever they were in the room. Ali Jackson would be playing pots and pans as drums. I was a kid, so to me this was the most exciting thing to be around—the energy and the joy. They loved playing so much they couldn’t stop. I begged my mom to let me stay up really late.” Fortunately, an understanding mother allowed Pedinotti to partake in the late-night jam sessions, and one attendee at the time recalls with awe a night when Jackson banged out the beat on a restaurant chair and a little 12-year-old Pedinotti stood up to sing with the group.

A backstory like this one is invaluable because record labels can’t pay for that kind of authenticity, and reporters love to find the beginning of a story already written. The record labels will be on hand tonight (Thursday) when Pedinotti, now 23, will play a showcase at the Egg’s Swyer Theater. (The theater’s 450 seats are nearly sold out, although Pedinotti suspects some tickets may be released the day of the show.) The Egg show, to be attended by at least two major record labels and one prominent independent label, is a chance for the music industry to “hear us in a setting that’s more conducive to the music, on a stage where the acoustics are beautiful and we’ll be able to put on a show,” Pedinotti says.

Although she recently signed to a Hoosick Falls-based artist-management company that represents national jazz and classical performers, Pedinotti doesn’t consider herself a jazz singer, per se. Her father’s record collection, filled with the big-band and swing music of his father’s generation along with the American folk music of the ’60s that he loved, such as Bob Dylan, has always been an influence. And with four music-loving siblings, three of them older, Pedinotti was exposed to underground rock bands like the Velvet Underground, while her sister played her dance tunes by Madonna and Michael Jackson.

“I grew up in a jazz restaurant and people know me as the singing bus girl, singing jazz standards,” Pedinotti says. “But I’m a songwriter, and I’m influenced by an eclectic mix of mu sic. I love Americana, roots music, the old blues, folk, rock, it’s all in there.”

She started writing her own music at age 15, and after graduating from high school in Galway, attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston. “I went away to school and discovered how much I love rock & roll,” she says. “At college I would experiment with different sounds and players. I got really into the rock scene. It was cool to be able to break away from people knowing me as a jazz singer. But coming back here was always great too.”

In the summers upon returning home from college, Pedinotti would team up with local drummer Chris Carey and jazz pianist Dave Payette, who have been part of her band since they all met at age 19. Her bassist Tony Markellis, who joined later, is an old-hand in the national music scene. A Grammy nominee, the Saratoga Springs resident has toured with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and the Mamas and the Papas. “I was very flattered that he wanted to be in my band,” Pedinotti says.

Pedinotti eventually found that music school, which she left with two semesters to go before graduation, couldn’t compare to the real-world education at her parents’ restaurant. “I learned so much at One Caroline,” she says. “I learned a lot through the feeling and stories of other musicians. It was such an education for me. Going to musical school really can’t teach you that sort of thing. I did learn a lot about theory and the technical aspects of music. But they can’t teach you soul. That you have to live to learn.”

Pedinotti and her band continue to play every Wednesday and Friday night at One Caroline Street Bistro, along with other local gigs. (The quartet will be joined by pedal-steel guitarist Kevin Maul for Thursday’s Egg show.) And the singer-songwriter currently is finishing up her third self-released album, City Bird, for release this spring. Her MySpace page offers a glimpse of rough mixes from the all-original City Bird songs, which display Pedinotti’s idiosyncratic lyrics and unconventional vocals.

“I like stories a lot,” she says, explaining the inspiration behind her songwriting. “We live in a nut house. Everyone is crazy in one sense, although they don’t know it. I fit in there somewhere. In this ’scape of the world, there is a lot to write about. All these crazy people and their stories. It’s a never-ending sea of stories that have already been told but are constantly being recycled in new ways. I’m tapping into them.”

The Sarah Pedinotti Band will perform tonight (Thursday, March 29) at 8 PM at the Egg. Tickets are $20 or $10 with student ID at 6 PM. For more information, call the Egg at 473-1845.

- 2007

"Evolution of an artist"

Evolution of an artist
Sarah Pedinotti Band taking flight

Sarah Pedinotti has shared concert bills and hung out with many of the greatest stars in the jazz universe. And now, with a crack group of musicians behind her, the 23-year-old Saratoga Springs resident is ready to rock.
Pedinotti grew up at her parents’ One Caroline Jazz Bistro, where as a preteen she made honey butter, washed tables — and sang.
“It was the best musical education,” she said. “I loved hearing all that music.”
From that musical launch pad in the hub of downtown Saratoga Springs’ nightlife, the singer-songwriter’s career is taking off.
The Sarah Pedinotti Band played Freihofer’s 2006 Jazz Festival, was highlighted at this season’s grand re-opening of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and this spring performed at the prestigious and intimate Egg in downtown Albany. “City Bird,” her third album and first with the Sarah Pedinotti Band, is just coming out.
Not an easy artist to peg, Pedinotti said while people trying to find comparisons have come up with names like Norah Jones and Macy Gray, she’s aiming to be Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits.
“People still see me as a kid who grew up singing Billie Holiday,” she said. “I know what I am and I know where I want to go and I’m always a step ahead in the development.”
She is a fine songwriter, and her bandmates — keyboardist Dave Payette, drummer Chris Carey and veteran bassist Tony Markellis — are far stronger musicians than your average group of rockers. Touches of Pedinotti’s jazz background are evident in her singing, but she is fronting a pop/rock group that can jump from tight virtuosic percussive jams to blues to country.
“The influence of Sarah on my playing is so great,” Payette said. “A lot of jazz artists close themselves off. With every new song, she throws me out of my comfort zone.”
The band’s performance at the Egg, before a mix of longtime fans and members of the music industry, featured catchy songs in a diversity of styles: a paean to Schenectady, a whimsical love song called “Meadowlark Meatloaf,” a narrative of bra-shopping at Victoria’s Secret that she wrote at age 15, a harrowing tale inspired by a guy she met at the bus station in Albany, a song about drunken revelers on Caroline Street.
Pedinotti self-produced for the first time with City Bird, and was able to do much of the work in her living room at home through the wonders of digital technology. She has begun to think of the album as a single composition.
“I didn’t mean for it to be a concept album but these songs definitely belong together,” she said.
Family has always been important to Pedinotti, who calls herself one of seven in a family of artists. Raised in Saratoga County’s rural Galway, she spent a lot of time in the Spa City and now calls it home. But family ties recently pulled her cross-country.
In mid-May, she flew out to California to teach a songwriting workshop at the Freestyle Academy in Los Altos, near San Francisco, where her sister teaches. The school brings photography, art and video classes to students in a unique setting.
“It was a challenge to understand my process to teach it,” she said. “There are no rules. How do you teach something with no rules?”
Pedinotti’s band thrives under those conditions.
Keyboardist Payette and drummer Carey, both 22, grew up in Clifton Park as elementary school friends. Payette ended up working on Pedinotti’s recording sessions for her first album, “You Go to My Head,” which she recorded to help finance her education at Berklee School of Music.
“We’ve played together ever since,” Payette said.
The rest of the band varied every summer until last year.
“Since then the music has totally shifted as we’ve developed as players. It’s better than it’s ever been,” said Payette. “It’s really enjoyable for all of us.”
Payette plays in several other bands but said the members of the Sarah Pedinotti Band are his best friends.
Markellis, the bassist, was a member of Kilimanjaro, has worked with Trey Anastasio of Phish and twice been nominated for a Grammy.
“It’s a very interesting and different project than I’ve been in before,” Markellis said. “There’s a lot of youthful exuberance.”
“Tony brings a stability to the band,” Payette said. “He’s just a kind, levelheaded guy. For having been around the world, he’s the most modest guy.”
Pedinotti’s esteem for her bandmates is evident to the audience. She salutes their solos in the between-song banter. They laugh, jam, and generally have a good time.
This summer could be a pivotal time in Pedinotti’s career.
The band continues to play at One Caroline, every Monday (from 9 p.m.) and Friday (from 7:30 p.m.). They will play The Parting Glass for the first time for their record release party, July 20. And the band will play on Broadway during downtown’s Hats Off Festival July 27 and 28, to kick off track season.
“I really hope to this summer have a chance to debut my new material and start getting a younger crowd, people who might not be able to afford filets and jambalaya,” she said. “A lot of people think we’re a jazz group, they have to know we can rock out.”
Pedinotti will also get up on stage on a weekly basis this summer at the Mouzon House, a French Quarter cuisine restaurant that her parents, Dave and Dianne, opened in a restored 1800s home by downtown’s High Rock Park. She will be there for a new event, “Tuesday Bluesdays,” beginning in July.
The chefs and kitchen crew of both of her parents’ restaurants include many musicians and Mouzon has a head chef who does a mean Hendrix impression. Their talents will be displayed at a variety show hosted by Sarah. She will open and close the shows with her songs.
Pedinotti is already working on her fourth album. “City Bird,” meanwhile, will be available at One Caroline, Borders and Last Vestige downtown, through the band’s Web site, sarahpedinotti.com, and at online stores like Amazon.com, CD Baby, and iTunes.
Pedinotti hopes to do a mini-tour of the northeast and down the coast and perhaps play the band’s first international gig at a festival in Montreal, all the while keeping a grassroots do-it-yourself modus operandi. The band has heard from major labels, including Universal, but signing to an independent label or working for themselves remain attractive alternatives.
“What I’m discovering now, with getting major label attention and making waves in a few different worlds, is the best route is really to go with local, develop your area and fans,” Pedinotti said.
She points to her parents as models for going local. They insist on buying from local farms for their restaurants even if it raises overhead. “It is about community and it about real people, because you’re nothing without that,” she said.
“I’m going to work as hard as I can in the independent scene where I can pull the shots,” she said. “People want something real. It’s not about the cool or money.”

- Ted Reinert - Saratoga Magazine

"Lee Shaw and Sarah Pedinotti"

"Everything is Okay, We're in the Song"

Lee Shaw and Sarah Pedinotti

by David Malachowski and photographs by Avalon Peacock, August 24, 2007

One is a venerated Capital Region jazz legend, while the other is one of the most compelling young artists to come out of upstate New York in years. But 78-year-old pianist Lee Shaw and 23-year-old singer/songwriter Sarah Pedinotti share more than the music that has made one famous, and seems sure to touch the other with stardom.

For 10 years, Shaw has been Pedinotti’s teacher and musical mentor, helping her develop what by all accounts is a prodigious natural talent. Shaw met Pedinotti at One Caroline Street Bistro, the Saratoga Springs restaurant and jazz club owned by Pedinotti’s parents. From an early age, between waiting tables and general chores, Pedinotti cut her teeth on stage there. Her first two albums, in 2003 and 2005, were both on Billboard Magazine’s “10 Best New Albums” lists, and a sparkling performance at the 2006 Freihofer’s Jazz Festival created palpable excitement around her. A vocalist of remarkable power and subtlety, Pedinotti rejects being labeled a jazz musician, and devotes herself as much to writing her own songs as to interpreting those of others. Besides the expected influences of Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, and Tom Waits, she names Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman, William Butler Yeats, and Kurt Vonnegut. Traces of all these artists can be heard on her newly released CD “City Bird,” a melting pot of influences from jazz to pop and even country, with heavy New Orleans seasonings.

But perhaps Pedinotti’s most intimate influence is Shaw, who has played and recorded with the likes of Anita O’Day, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughan. Shaw’s mentor was Oscar Peterson, who played a key role in turning the young Oklahoma-born concert-piano student into a jazzer of international renown. Her Lee Shaw Trio has toured extensively in the US, Canada, and Europe, and has just released an exquisite CD, Originals. When not on the road or in the studio, Shaw teaches at The College of Saint Rose in Albany and gives private lessons. Her most famous student, at least for the time being, is John Medeski, keyboardist with Medeski, Martin and Wood.

Though the muse-beautiful Pedinotti is not a pianist, she nevertheless says Shaw’s impact on her career was “like hitting the jackpot.” In July, Chronogram brought the two musicians together to talk about art, performing, and friendship. They met at Shaw’s home overlooking the Mohawk River, just as a huge thunderstorm broke over the region. They were like two long-lost comrades, laughing, touching each other affectionately, often taking over from the interviewer, who simply listened with pleasure as the two women vamped on their life in music. That first meeting, and subsequent phone calls, have been combined into the interview below.

As the dusk fell in Shaw’s home and the interview came to an end, the mentor and her protégée sat for photos at the piano and spontaneously, almost impulsively, began to perform. They played two songs, the old Sinatra tune “Everything Happens to Me” and the Holiday standard “God Bless the Child.” The music was sublime, enchanting, pure magic. They do not perform publicly together, but regularly appear individually around the region. Pedinotti will be at WAMC’s Linda Norris Auditorium in Albany on September 15, while Shaw plays the Castle Street Cafe in Great Barrington on September 20, and Justin’s in Albany on September 23.

David Malachowski: Tell me how you met.

Sarah Pedinotti: I was 13 when I met Lee. We started out playing together at my parents’ club. She took me under her wing, and explained to me how a singer is not just a singer, a singer should be a musician. Out of all the performers who played at One Caroline Street, there was something about Lee that I respected immediately. There was something supernatural about it when Lee was playing—the energy she gave off, the way she really communicated with an audience. And for a pianist—she doesn’t even have the lyrics—it’s tactile. She’s a poet in a way.

Lee Shaw: Sarah was an incredible presence, this skinny, sweet little kid. From the beginning, she knew the keys of all her songs.

Pedinotti: (laughing): Well, you told me to get a little black book and write down all the songs I know and put the keys next to them. You really whipped me into shape!

Shaw: It was obvious that she loved to sing, and she listened, which is the most important thing.

Pedinotti: One of the greatest things Lee’s taught me is you never stop learning. She’s like a Yoda. (Looking at Shaw) You don’t talk backwards, but you can play backwards! She’s like a wizard!

Shaw: I never had the sense that you were copying anybody. One of the things I admire you for the most is that you are your own person, you listen to the sound of your own drummer.

Lee, what advice would you give Sarah about the musician’s life and how to handle fame?

Shaw: I don’t think Sarah has any problem knowing what is important to her and what she wants. Sarah is extremely honest with herself. She wants a long, successful career, but she wants it to remain honest, she doesn’t want to be pushed in any direction just for the sake of success. The way she looks, and with her talent, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to say “Why don’t you do this?,” and “Why don’t you do that?” If you want to have a long career, you have to know what your own directions are, and not be influenced by the lure of glamour or acclaim. And that she already has.

Pedinotti: Sometimes it’s hard to know who you are. Many people today struggle to define themselves, they want to be seen as different. But I feel it’s more important to focus on our common threads, what ties us all together. I may not know who I am, but I know what makes me human and I need to trust that. The trick is to empathize with everyone, let them inspire you, become them, but don’t ever let them steal you away.

What was it like in the early days, Lee, as a woman in the mostly male jazz world?

Shaw: I’ll give you some quotes: “Gee, you play good for a girl.” Once, at Grossinger’s: “How much money do you make?” Or in interviews, they’d assume, since I’m female, I have to sing. Very often you’d see, “Lee Shaw pianist-singer.” I sound like a crow! I was always playing with men, I don’t recall having played with a woman bass player or drummer, but very often at a club, playing with two horn players, bass and drums, whether I was leader of the group or not, it didn’t matter, the men—the horns—would take a solo, the bass would take a solo, the drummer would do fours, and then the horn players would go out, and leave me out! So I was functioning simply in the rhythm section.

What was your reaction to this?

Shaw: Standing up for myself. I would just butt in and take the chorus myself, or say “I’m here too.” Things have changed greatly. I think it was the women’s movement in the ’70s that influenced that. Throughout history, women have been second-class citizens, and in so many places, still are.

Pedinotti: There’s this thing on Lee’s wall that says, “Lee Shaw looks like a fox, plays as good as a man.” I was about 18 when I first read that, and I was furious. Lee was very graceful about it when I read it out loud with disgust. She said “Times were different back then. Now, even if someone thought that, they would never be allowed to print it.” I learned an important lesson from her then.

Sarah, you performed all through high school, then you left, went to Berklee from 2003 to 2005 and attended Harvard. What did you learn during those years away from the stage?

Pedinotti: I took some classes [at Harvard] for a year in 2005-2006, after I dropped out of Berklee and was still hanging around Boston. I took philosophy and creative writing courses and an anthropology and human rights course. I was really happy taking time off. During that time, I was writing such different material, I was so inspired. I learned there’s something musical about anthropology, and finding music in things that are not musical is exciting.

Now that you’re experiencing some success, what’s life like for you?

Pedinotti: I’m really excited now that I don’t have to wait tables. It’s really funny trying to be a waitress and a singer. I was a lousy waitress, but when I played, it was like “Ahhh, everything is okay, we’re in the song. I get to sing about having the blues and being broken-hearted, and emote and be an artist and this character.”

You don’t like being called a jazz singer. How do you describe yourself?

Pedinotti: It’s been a challenge with what to label it. I just have to ignore what it’s called and just do it—do what I do and let other people decide how to market it. I have such great respect for jazz music. What I do now is singer/songwriter, but the tunes that I write, there’s a lot of jazz in there.

What are your artistic goals?

Pedinotti: I want to really get into writing. I’m not really a fortune-teller, but I hope to have a thousand original songs. I have a little over a hundred now. The more you write, the more you develop. It’s almost like you’re working on one piece.

This one’s for each of you: Why music?

Pedinotti: It’s the storytelling aspect that is important to me. I think of people like Woody Guthrie, who was telling the story of the dust-bowl era. He was important to liven up a country full of very depressed people in a grim time. In that desperate time, it shows you the power of the music—a guy traveling with just a guitar—to get people inspired to want to live. Music has a transformative quality. We are living in a very disturbing moment in history and I cannot suppress the disquietude of our age. Hence the need for the healing, transformative power of music and poetry. I just need it to stay sane.

Shaw: I’ve always tried to play each song as though it was the last song I’ll ever play. You let the music get inside you. You’re clearly a vehicle. Music to me is like breathing. It’s that important.

- Chronogram


Self-released albums: Railbird (2008) and City Bird (2007) - in regular rotation on:
WEXT 97.7 Amsterdam, Albany, Schenectady, Troy, NY
WEQX 102.7 Manchester, Vermont
104.9 The Edge, Albany, NY
WKZE 98.1, Red Hook, NY- Salisbury, CT
WFUV 90.7, Fordham University, New York, NY
WSPN 91.1, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
WRPI 91.5 RPI, Troy, NY

Railbird and City Bird featured as well as live performances and interviews on:
WAMC 90.3 - Northeast Public Radio
WEXT 97.7 - Amsterdam, Albany, Schenectady, Troy, NY
WKZE 98.1 - Red Hook, NY- Salisbury, CT
XM Radio play on "The Loft" - live show recorded at The Living Room in NYC



Railbird is an all-original indie folk rock group with eclectic, lyrically driven songs from Saratoga Springs, NY. The band is fronted by singer/songwriter Sarah Pedinotti who is described by Billboard Magazine as "a talented young singer/songwriter on the rise." In a recent review of "Railbird" Pedinotti’s songs are compared to that of Dylan, The Band and Patti Smith. Pedinotti is a storyteller, who finds inspiration in the fiction and poetry of writers such as George Orwell, Philip K. Dick, Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, and W.B. Yeats. Railbird's debut disc was listed as #8 in Billboard's editors' picks for 2008, hailed as "a great indie band set to break out."

Sarah: Finalist in John Lennon Songwriting Contest:
"Julio" off City Bird was recognized as a "fantastic song," under the folk category, by the judges of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Check out the link to see more:

A recent review of Railbird live at Boston's Cafe 939 by Amplifier Magazine:
"Pedinotti and her able supporting cast purveyed a swaggering roots-rock blend, leaving one with the impression of hearing The Band jam with a long-lost female member.."

Check out the complete review here:

Billboard Editor's Picks for 2008:
"Railbird" Led by inspired singer/songwriter Sarah Pedinott, the debut disc from a great indie band set to break out. - Thom Duffy, Billboard

"Her unique voice, sideways perspective and uncanny originality is something to behold." - David Malachowski, The Daily Freeman

"She’s Sarah Pedinotti and if you haven’t heard of her yet, well, you’re going to! Great songs, fabulous band, dynamic performer -- Pedinotti has got the whole package." - Greg Haymes, Times Union

"Her literate lyrics live in tunes that are more like mini-movies or cinematic short stories than mere songs." - David Malachowski, Chronogram

“The biggest thing to come out of Saratoga County (NY) since the potato chip.” - Ted Reinhart, The Saratogian

“I swear to God, every time I go to The Living Room someone good is playing. And every once in a while, someone great is playing.
[Railbird] played a bluesy brand of folk rock, delivered crisply, competently, and with a we-know-exactly-how-good-we-are swagger. They left me breathless.

Sarah can write, she can sing, and she owns the stage. Her lyrics are whip-crack smart, and she's mesmerizing all the way up and down her dynamic range. The band? These guys can play. Really really play. Throughout the course of the night I caught myself, slack-jawed and breathing through my mouth, in awe at each of them at least once."

- Mike McClenathan, an excerpt from a review of Railbird live at The Living Room in NYC, www.wealsoran.com