Jazz Isn’t Dead; It’s Alive and Well in SLV
By Christina Wise
Boulder Creek’s Vincent Bottini, comes from a family where musical talent runs deep. Vincent’s mom, Celina, is the lead singer for a Santa Cruz punk rock band called SA90; dad Steve spent years playing Latin percussion, but has picked up the guitar; Vincent’s grandfather plays trumpet, and helped found the Saratoga Big Band, and now 14-year-old Vincent is following in his family’s footsteps. The San Lorenzo Valley High School freshman is finding his stride with jazz piano, and learning a lot along the way.
“I enjoy listening to other musicians who inspire me,” says Bottini. Influencers include Thelonious Monk (famously known for “Straight, No Chaser,” “Round Midnight” and “Blue Monk”) and Herbie Hancock (multi-Academy Award winner and 2014 Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University, where Hancock’s theme is, “The Ethics of Jazz”).
Bottini’s local inspiration comes from Zayante-based jazz pianist instructor Rob Mahoney. “I’ve been studying with Rob for a while. I played piano during elementary and middle school, and was taught by (past SLVMS Musical Director) Dan Lingenfelter, but playing for Rob means I’ve performed at Kuumbwa Jazz.” And all that playing comes with a ton of practice. “I practice at lunch in the band room, and I play when I get home, too.”
For all the effort that Bottini has put into learning to play, what is this pianist’s favorite type of piano? “Stride piano is my favorite.” Stride piano, also known as Harlem stride piano, gets its name for the pianist’s left hand leaping, or striding, across the piano keys. “You play a bass note in an octave with your left hand, and play the chord on the second and fourth beats, creating a rhythm,” explains Bottini. “Art Tatum (known as one of the greatest improvisers in jazz history) was famous for his ability to play stride piano. My favorite striding song, though, is ‘Take the ‘A’ Train,’ which was written by Billy Strayhorn and made famous by Duke Ellington.”
Bottini admires composers, but says that’s not where his talent is focused for now. “I need to learn more about music theory, but my jazz piano is getting ahead of me.” As for his musical future, Bottini is compelled to continue playing. “I want to study music as a minor,” Bottini says, “especially music theory and music production. I really enjoy playing. There’s something that’s more than words with jazz, and it really speaks to me. My dad put on a lot of jazz stuff when I was growing up, and something about jazz really clicked with me. Especially playing it now and playing with other people is so fun and inspiring. I don’t plan to stop.”
And as for other youngsters who are finding their musical teeth? “For a while I was stuck in a rut, and I’m glad my parents forced me to keep going. Since I found something I’m passionate about, like jazz, I’m so happy. Find something you’re interested in and inspired by and excited about!”