Sasha’s Bloc – Runaway Blues


Los Angeles big band and jazz masters Sasha’s Bloc have joined forces with Grammy winning vocal talents Take 6 for one of their most impressive singles yet. “Runaway Blues” continues the band’s string of stellar work since their 2013 formation and reassures fans that this is a musical unit who definitely see new worlds left to conquer. They win you over here as they always have with a layered approach incorporating a variety of fluent, expertly arranged musical voices. It’s a condensed track as well they never threatens listeners with the possibility of overstaying its welcome and resolutely maintains its focus from its opening seconds onward. It’s a vividly produced outing as well – each instrument is rendered with warm, sparkling clarity and the mix achieves an ideal balance between its numerous elements.

“Runaway Blues” features the vocal talents of Alvin Chea. Chea is a virtual renaissance man, a twenty plus year music world veteran and current Juris doctoral candidate in Entertainment Law, who elevates this track from the realm of popular song into performance art. His talent for phrasing makes itself apparent from the song’s opening seconds, particularly how it’s initially framed in a duet with beautifully composed gospel piano, and guides much of the song’s spirit. His vocals mesh well with the steadily growing musical backdrop. Sasha’s Bloc builds “Runaway Blues” in patient, deliberate fashion. The song picks up additional musical steam along the way adding new instrumentation like brass and organ and helps it reach even more affecting heights in the song’s second half.

The vocal melody and multi-part harmonies are another crucial factor in the song’s success. It emphasizes the song’s elegiac, melancholy quality and lulls listener’s with its eloquently phrased melodic line. Each of song’s individual parts work in pure organic sympathy with one another without the listener ever encountering a passage or lyric that sounds arbitrary or tacked on as an afterthought. Instead, “Runaway Blues” scores with listeners in, arguably, the most important way possible – it sounds like the spontaneous and authentic utterance of a human spirit.

The lyric helps the song reach that place. There’s beautiful storytelling simplicity in the song, but it focuses much more on internal movement rather than linear action. This is a song about how people change and can lose their way. It achieves its effects using as few words as possible and, much like the music, gains much from resisting any self-indulgence. The band’s bassist and founder Alexander Gershman, a renaissance man like Chea, is a surgeon, bandleader, and philanthropist of some renown, but the band’s discography and latest single makes one thing clear above all else – Gershman is a creator and has surrounded himself with an able cast of collaborators capable of realizing even greater musical peaks as an unit.

Sasha’s Bloc isn’t a legacy act. They certainly pay tribute to America’s early 20th century big band sound, but rather than slavishly imitating it, they reanimate it and remind listeners of its compositional discipline and possibilities for communication. “Runaway Blues” is far more than a period piece – it’s a vivid example of why Sasha’s Bloc is one of the best ensembles writing and performing today.


David Shouse