Sasha's Bloc Band

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Sasha’s Bloc @ Catalina’s

by George Harris

You get the hint that something special is in the air at Catalina’s when a) the show starts RIGHT ON TIME (this is a jazz club?!?) and b) the set begins with a guy having his back facing you (no, it’s not Miles Davis), who then turns around and starts things off with a fascinatingly rhythmic tap dance. Something’s coming, I don’t know…what it is…but it is… going to be grand…

And grand it was, as bassist/composer/Russian émigré’ Alexander Gershman lead a musical review called Sasha’s block that melded all parts of Prohibition era jazz into a fascinating 1 ½ of sounds, sights and vocals. From Russia with Love via Chicago, Gershman mixed his own Al Capone era originals with 78rpm pieces with a rotating team of vocalists supported by an air tight rhythm team and concisely swinging horn section. Carina Cooper, dressed like she came off of The Untouchables set, cooed and wooed through, and paired up well with Adam Jackson on a bouncy “I’m So In Love,” and “Sunny Side of the Street” while getting down with on his own with “Dirty Cowboy Blues.” Cooper teamed with Gershman on a Charleston sounding “Old Russian” that featured the  tap dancer  as the principal soloist, before Peggy Blue sauntered on stage for a mix of mugging and sauciness on “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”  An agonizing clarinet opened a wondrous “Melancholia” that featured Joe Glaser’s two stepping banjo, and just when you thought you’d heard every root of jazz, a vocal gospel team from Breath of Life Church from Inglewood touched jazz’s taproot with a rapturous piece  that brought the house just one step closer to heaven before everyone joined together on stage for a good timing “Manhatten” that closed the exciting set. This was a show made to go on the road or do a long run around here. The only thing missing this fun packed night was the 14th Amendment!

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