There’s a common, unfortunately knee-jerk tendency to throw labels on this music. Post metal, rap, pop country, death metal, et al, it seems to stagger some imaginations that big band jazz, the dominant musical form in America up to the introduction of rock and roll, continues to thrive in our modern world. Some might say there’s no accounting for taste or the changes wrought by men and time. However, others will hear in Sasha’s Bloc an outfit with an encyclopedic command of the form and immense creative imagination that gives lie to any of the aforementioned knee-jerk reactions in one fell swoop. Their newest single “Runaway Blues” continues building on the instrumental and vocal brilliance that makes their first two albums, 2013’s Melancholy and 2015’s Heart on Fire, essential listening for anyone interested in the modern jazz scene.
They join forces with the Grammy winning vocal group Take 6 on this track and their singer Alvin Chea. Chea’s faultless phrasing and controlled modulation makes this an emotional tour de force from the first line on. It helps immensely that the reflective lyric does far more than just give him an adequate vehicle for his singing – instead, the deeply introspective point of view and plain spoken poetry give him a launching pad to propel himself and the song even higher. The composition wins listeners over through a process of accumulation. Intially, “Runaway Blues” begins life as a starkly beautiful duet between Chea’s vocal and gospel-influenced piano lines. Over the course of its four minutes and change running time, Sasha’s Bloc takes a dramatic and measured approach to incorporating new instrumental voices – they make staggered and, ultimately, highly appropriate entrances.
The most memorable of those comes with the brass section entering after the bridge. Their power and melodic fluency pulls the song completely over to the blues and fuels the song’s highest musical peak. The rhythm section for Sasha’s Bloc deserves signaling out for how consistently, yet unobtrusively, the players maintain a great bottom end that allows everything else to flourish and grow. It also allows for barely perceptible touches, like brief Hammond organ fills, to further distinguish the song.
Alex Gershman’s project, in its third year, has performed beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Sasha’s Bloc has began building an significant and lasting body of recorded work that deepens their growing renown as a in-demand act for top jazz venues and festivals nationwide. This isn’t just legacy music ably performed. Sasha’s Bloc is creating a legacy for themselves and perpetuating one that inspired them in the first place. Few American musical acts are so talented, far reaching, and attuned to providing audiences with stellar entertainment. This Los Angeles based band has solidified their standing among the elite and their new song “Runaway Blues” finds them continuing to grow and evolve.