Music has always been at the center of Matt's life. His father played saxophone and piano in his younger days, in a band comprised of neighborhood boys. Through his dad he first learned to love jazz, and at the age of 7 claimed Henry Busse to be one of his favorites. When he was 8, he was given a copy of the album, 'Shakin' the Blues Away,' recorded by the Coffee Club Orchestra, the then-16 piece house band of radio's 'A Prairie Home Companion.' The album was comprised of pop tunes from the 1920s and early 1930s, and was his first exposure of the niche music he now performs. To this day it remains one of his favorites.
Matt Tolentino began his musical venture at 11, when he picked up the clarinet to play in the band at Stonewall Jackson Elementary. He played clarinet exclusively until he entered his sophomore year of high school, when he branched out and added saxophone, tuba and accordion, which he spent the entire summer learning. At 15 Matt met one of his greatest musical influences, Robert Atwood of San Antonio, a very fine accordionist who taught him much about the instrument and music in general, and who would serve as his friend and mentor. Much of high school was spent playing polka gigs in restaurants and playing with the school jazz band. The accordion was Matt's first musical love, even before he could play - very contrary to his generation, 'The Lawrence Welk Show' was part of his usual television viewing. Matt never missed an episode, and for the longest time the thought never occurred to him that these were in fact old shows!
Following high school, Matt briefly tried going for a music education degree, but realized playing music within a strict academic setting wasn't for him, and he gave it up after one school year. He took time off, and in 2006 hit the road with the south Texas-based polka band, The Sauerkrauts, playing clarinet and saxophone. It was his first time on tour, and the experience was invaluable. The same year he began to play off and on with the Austin based band, The White Ghost Shivers, on accordion and bass saxophone.
He returned to school in 2007, and stayed with it for a while before finally yielding to the temptation of doing music full-time. The same year Matt met one of his good friends, Drew Nugent, a very talented cornetist and pianist from Philadelphia. Upon seeing Drew's success with his own bands, Matt decided to put his own together, and thus his Singapore Slingers orchestra was born. He had been collecting 'stock' arrangements for some time, and now had a group to play them. Matt assembled the group from people he had known through his various work in pit orchestras, recording, and gigging. The result was a group of dedicated, talented players, a great number of which are still with the orchestra to this day. The Slingers play a wide variety of musical styles, including "rag-a-jazz"- a brief period in music between the late teens and early twenties- a musical hybrid of ragtime and jazz. Matt also heads up The Matt Tolentino Band, and various other smaller incarnations of the larger Slingers, which usually boasts 4 or 5 musicians, and plays for small jazz clubs, private parties, dances, and anywhere that hot jazz music is requested, and both the Matt Tolentino Band, as well as the Singapore Slingers, are very popular with the dancers.
He continues to focus exclusively on pre-swing popular music of 1895- 1935, including rags, fox trots, marches, one-steps, two-steps, and waltzes. Being an accordion player, he is also very well versed in the traditional music of Germany, Austria, The Czech Republic, and Switzerland. Before he adapted jazz to the accordion, he played a repertoire of polkas, waltzes, and marches, which he still performs a lot. He plays a lot of solo accordion, but also leads The Royal Klobasneks, a 7 piece dance band, which, like his other bands, is dedicated to preserving traditional music- they, too, are also a hit with dance fanatics!
A true multi-instrumentalist, he is equally at home on accordion, clarinet, tuba, piano, tenor guitar, banjo, and saxophones, specializing in baritone and bass sax. Some of his greatest influences include Vince Giordano, The New Leviathan Oriental Fox Trot Orchestra (the catalyst for starting the Slingers), Adrian Rollini, Al Bowlly, Paul Whiteman, Scott Joplin, Walter Donaldson, Myron Floren, Garrison Keillor, and Joan Morris and William Bolcom. He has traveled far and wide to play, including New York, New Orleans, California, and British Columbia (July 2008- 2010 with Alex Meixner). This music has made Matt a lot of friends, and even brought his wife Danielle and him together, through a mutual love of this music- what started as friendship in 2006 led to marriage in June 2010.
Matt will continue to bring the music of yesterday to the audience of today, presented with respect and reverence- the way it should be.
"Don't change your style to fit the song- change the song to fit your style"- Guy Lombardo