I caught this band put together by bassist Alex Gershman about a year ago at Catalina’s and this past month, and was impressed by how they mixed jazz and vocals into what appeared like a nightclub theatre act. That was the initial vision of what came to be known as the band Sasha’s Bloc; to make jazz be entertaining once again. The core team is a nonet consisting of Gershman with Nora Rothman/voc, Brandon Fields-Alex Budman/reeds, Kye Palmer/tp, Bob McChesney/tb, Kevin Winard/dr, Steve Cotterg and Andy Langham as well as a rotating team of vocalists and instrumentalists on an on call cameo basis.
The songs here are all originals, but they have the feel of mid 30s to early 50s-accessible, swinging and with concise solos that have something to say. There some infectious vocal arrangements by Bob Garad, with the moods ranging from pre-WWII American pop a la Sinatra on “Lonely Day In Paris” to an upbeat Dixie-toned brass n sass ditty “Anything is Possible.” Monheit is in her element here, in fact she’s never sounded either better or more at home. With her patented delivery that sounds like she’s singing the closing song to Act One of a musical, she goes cabaret on “Feels Like Jazz” while an accordion and brass accompany her on a delightful Crescent City influenced “Breakfast.” But Monheit is not Monhiet without a dreamy ballad, and “Heart of Fire” has her heart on her sleeve like a diva in “Figaro.” Some great jungle sounds give a tribute to Ellington on”Duke” and the band hits the mood just right on the languid “Sunday Blues” as Jane takes everyone home for one last round.
The genius of Gershman is that he doesn’t make sounds from the early 20th Century sound nostalgic, but actually forward thinking.