Part Sergio Leone fever-dream, part Ravi Shankar raga, the music of Sal Cataldi, known to his audiences as “Spaghetti Eastern,” has become a regular attraction in Saugerties and throughout the Hudson Valley. At a self-proclaimed “62 years young,” the Queens native is a public relations agent by day, but a whirling dervish of musical creation by night. He can be heard at Rock da Casbah on the third Thursday each month, starting at 8 p.m.
Playing music in one form or another since he was 12, Cataldi cites a common Boomer-era motivation for his early start.
“Like everyone else at that time, when The Beatles were popular, we all got into music,” he said. “I was inspired a little after that by Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, and music has always been a creative outlet for me since.”
Cataldi remained a self-taught artist through his early adulthood, learning at home how to play the music of his heroes until he joined the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. There, he threw himself into learning the deep technical aspects of his craft, and has remained a prolific creator ever since.
In addition to his work in musical groups such as Hari Karaoke Trio of Doom, Frank’s Museum (“the clown pop princes of Brooklyn”) and his “heavy metal bebop quartet” Collector, Cataldi is an anthologized artist in the Brooklyn Beat collection of recordings, enjoys frequent airings of his work on radio stations across the nation, and has been featured on no fewer than eight full-length albums. His latest project, Spaghetti Eastern, has been drawing crowds at local venues such as Opus 40, BSP, The Falcon, Colony Café, and the Kingston Artist’s Collective. On the cusp of his new album, Sketches of Spam, Cataldi is gearing up to play these venues more frequently in addition to his Rock da Casbah gig.
When speaking of Spaghetti Eastern, Cataldi wears his inspirations on his sleeve: “When I started this project about a dozen years ago, it was very much all instrumental, and was kind of inspired by the idea of movie music with a sort of eastern flair. Clint Eastwood, he made these westerns in Italy, and they had a certain kind of music to them. I became Spaghetti Eastern because the project was very much inspired by the music from those Italian westerns, but with an added eastern flavor.”
In addition to the influences of the Beatles, Hendrix, and Clapton in his music, Cataldi pays specific deference to artists working in rock-jazz fusion and progressive rock, as well as jazz guitarists. He counts among his favorites such legends as Miles Davis and Pierre Bensusan, and holds a special place in his work for a Norwegian “textural guitarist” that he often references, Terje Rypdal.
Weaving acoustic and electric guitar seamlessly with his own vocals and backing instruments, Spaghetti Eastern’s one-man show pumps out an impressive sonic tapestry that seems fuller than just Cataldi himself. “The music is half, maybe 60 percent instrumental — sort of jazz mixed with electronic. My main instrument is a guitar, but I also play keyboard and bass. I’ll sing a song, and then build a few chords, layer on top of it. I don’t do a lot of boundaries in my music, it’s about myself and what I’m into.”
Despite his solid history with the New York City music scene, the move to Saugerties has been fruitful for Cataldi.
“As to coming up here, it’s such a good music scene. The people treat musicians well. I moved here about two years ago and immediately I was able to play all these venues,” he gushed. “They were very receptive, even the radio stations — I’ve been on Radio Woodstock. That’s how I met a lot of musicians around here, the first time I was on WDST. I worked with a guy named Gus Mancini, and through him I met a bunch of other local musicians.”
Though his affection for the local music scene runs strong, Saugerties itself seems to have taken Cataldi in a real way.
“When I moved up here two years ago, I had been visiting the area since the late ‘70s, and had actually spent a couple summers in the Kerhonkson area and Accord in the nineties, so I was familiar with the area,” he said.” I didn’t know all that much about Saugerties until we came up here and saw how convenient and beautiful and cool it is. Saugerties’ proximity is so great — we’re five minutes off the Thruway and a half an hour from everything. I think it’s the best located town.”
Along with his monthly Rock da Casbah gig, Cataldi will play a show this coming Sunday, March 10 at Kingston Artists Collective, 63 Broadway. His new album, Sketches of Spam, is also available for free streaming on Spotify.