In anticipation of reviewing Here We Go! I found myself excitedly in line at the Pulaski Meat Market, a landmark institution anchoring a quiet corner of my residential neighborhood. The Pulaski has been in operation for 70 years, with much of its labor force still imported from the old country— the young counter girls all speak Polish as a first language. Slovak myself, this was the establishment which supplied my childhood with traditional foods. (Ukrainian nuns were also involved.)
The same excitement about tradition that had my basket full of babka drove Dallas native Matt Tolentino to organize The Royal Klobasneks. Their debut CD isn’t just about young people goofing on the music or another “Beer Barrel Polka” record. These are real artists capturing a very specific Bohemian sound. Tolentino has revived classic arrangements and created some charts with deference to the style. His delight shines through. This is joyful music, as good for the heart as these golumpkies will be bad for my waistline.
If you’re wondering how a review of a polka record has found its way into The Syncopated Times, here’s your answer: The Royal Klobasneks are only one of jazz musician Matt Tolentino’s several bands and projects. This gifted young multi-instrumentalist was profiled in TST back in April 2016. I have at hand a CD titled The Frank Skinner Project on which Tolentino, through his 18-piece dance orchestra The Singapore Slingers, highlights the contributions of the man who literally wrote the book—or at least a book—about arranging popular music for dance bands.
Matt Tolentino brings a rare investigative vigor to all of his endeavors. Sometimes it pays to follow a musician into his side projects to see what has caught his attention. Listening back to the Slingers CD I’m hearing a bit more um-pah than a normal jazz record would have.
Both Here We Go! and The Frank Skinner Project are available on the Jazzador Records label through matttolentino.com.