Waltz (or fox trot or rumba) into the theater on a night when The Singapore Slingers are onstage, and you’ll feel transported back in time to a world where men sport bowties and heavily pomaded hair, and women wearing soft golden locks and deep red lipstick smoke long cigarettes with impunity. The 18-piece orchestra, wearing only black and khaki-colored clothing (they’re going for the look of a sepia-tinted photo, the leader explains), performs ditties on strings and horns that haven’t been mainstream since the First World War. Frontman Matt Tolentino might be on the tuba, sax, ukulele or, most likely, the accordion. “The accordion is my main squeeze,” he says. You might expect this purveyor of early 1900-1935 era tunes (or of that joke) to be an old guy — maybe someone who remembers ragtime records from his childhood, for example. But Tolentino is just 25 — a 2003 graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School. “I know nothing about pop music,” he says. “But when I was a kid, a neighbor gave me a recording of the house band from A Prairie Home Companion, and I enjoyed that. I learned to play clarinet in elementary school … the sax, tuba and accordion in high school. I’ve always listened to this type of music.” He came up with The Singapore Slingers’ name, he says, from a cocktail popular in the 1920s. “I thought it was pretty clever. Later I learned there was an amateur basketball team by the same name,” he says laughing. “If there’s anything I know less about than pop music, it’s sports.”
Travel to the golden age with The Singapore Slingers Jan. 17 at Unity Church of Christianity, 3425 Greenville.
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