by Scott Yanow
Alex Gershman is a renowned Urologic Surgeon originally from Moscow who has always loved jazz. He also plays bass and in 2012 formed Sasha’s Bloc, an entertaining and eclectic group that plays several types of jazz. The band and concept have developed steadily over the past three years and, recently at Vibrato, Sasha’s Bloc put on a very entertaining and colorful show, celebrating the release of their new CD Heart On Fire.
The core of the group is an octet that includes four impressive horn soloists (altoist Brandon Fields, Alex Budman on baritone and clarinet, trumpeter Kye Palmer and trombonist Bob McChesney). Featured throughout the night were no less than seven vocalists: Jane Monheit, Alvin Chea (of Take Six), Tony Gallo, Nora Rothman and three very good background singers (including Glynis Leflore and Princess Fortier). Sasha’s Bloc was celebrating the release of their third CD, Heart On Fire. Throughout the night, with the exception of “Perdido” and a closing “Summertime,” all of the songs were originals by Gershman, including three (“Manhattan,” “The Duke” and “Black And Blue”) with the
same titles as earlier standards.
The music ranged from joyful dixielandish ensembles to soul jazz, emotional ballads and swinging originals. Jane Monheit showed that her voice is still as beautiful as it was a decade ago, Alvin Chea sounded warm and quietly inventive, Nora Rothman displayed youthful energy and potential, Tony Gallo always swung, and the background singers were a major asset. Among the highlights were “Feels Like Jazz” (it was great hearing Monheit with a big band backing), “Day In Paris,” Alvin Chea and Glynis Leflore on “Black And Blue,” the hot Dixieland of “Breakfast,” Brandon Fields’ bluish playing and heated high notes on “Fateful Blues,” Fields emulating Johnny Hodges a little on the melancholy ballad “The Duke,” “Runaway,” “The City Of Angels,” and the three background singers operating as a vocal group on “Manhattan.” The fast moving show never lost one’s interest with plenty of fine horn solos (particularly from the versatile Kye Palmer) and joyful spirits. It was quite memorable.