Born in Dallas, Texas; raised partly in New Hampshire; and now based in New York City; guitarist/composer/bandleader Tom Csatari (pronounced chuh-tar-ee) is an eclectic musician, drawing inspiration from his patchwork American identity, in search of unique and shareable sound(s). An active composer, arranger, and guitarist for various projects in New York City, Csatari has presented his compositions and songs at such venues as (le) Poisson Rouge, Barbès, Shapeshifter Lab, Rockwood Music Hall, Cornelia St. Café, the Wassaic Festival and others. His debut full-length album — entitled Uncivilized — was released by Tiny Montgomery Records in 2014 and the chamber-ensemble follow up Outro Waltz was released a year later. His big band “Uncivilized” was reviewed in The New York Times on October 30th, 2015, with the headline: “Uncivilized Defies Conventionality in Concert” and has released two vinyl EPs under this name.
Tom Csatari — Artist Statement / Autobiography 2017
My compositional aesthetic position exists at the cross-section of the independent sub-genre “free folk”; the processes of downtown New York free-jazz; and contemporary classical song structures — some sort of gothic, campfire freak jazz.
My father is from New Jersey and my mother is from Upstate New York. My grandfather emigrated to the United States from Hungary in 1923 (hence the strange surname). I was born in Dallas, Texas, spending 10 years there before a family relocation to New England in 1998. This sort of polarized, ‘90s Americana upbringing informed the development of my music, having grown up surrounded by classical music and the radio, in both the North and the South of the United States. I heard my Suzuki-trained sister play The Right Of Spring at a very early age, and found comfort in the radio culture of this pre-digital era, as well as inspiration from my parents ‘70s folk LPs.
I started playing the guitar in the punk-rock scene of New Hampshire and Vermont at age 12, and caught the Jazz bug from Frank Zappa in High School, quickly becoming obsessed with Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and John Scofield, studying guitar with Vermont Jazz Center legend Draa Hobbs. After playing and touring with bands throughout New England as a teenager, and apprenticing with Ron Smith’s world music ensemble at the Northfield Mount Hermon School, I landed in New York City at age 18 to study Jazz at the New School University. After two years at The New School, I switched to the Environmental Studies program and kept music going mainly after hours, living a sort of double life wherein — at one point — I was working for the NYC Department of Sanitation’s Recycling Office during the day and playing my jazz compositions at Greenwich Village’s Fat Cat club at night.
I’ve spent 10 years composing and working in the environmental field in New York, all the while exploring with friends and colleagues the intersection of these fields, primarily through the lens of experimental roots music. This broad field allows me to incorporate elements of free improvisation with more folkloric song structures, as well as with noise-based, drone aesthetics. My work draws on my patchwork Americana upbringing, deeply indebted to both ‘70s environmentalism as well as to the thriving avant-garde downtown free-jazz scene in New York. I’m searching for the interface between popularized sounds, pitch noise, and collaborative musical histories—towards a post-postmodern sonic environmentalism.