Recorded live in New York City’s legendary Capitol Records studios, Sasha’s Bloc new single “Runaway Blues” is the latest release from the powerhouse, Los Angeles based jazz collective. It follows close on the heels of two full length releases, 2013’s Melancholy and 2015’s Heart on Fire, and carries on with the same balance of virtuosity, intelligence, and stylish production that has distinguished these earlier releases. The group is joined on this song by the Grammy winning vocal group Take 6 and Alvin Chea, one of Take 6’s premier talents, delivers a spellbinding singing performance that matches the splendidly textured musical accompaniment. Every musical detail is rendered in vivid, beautifully rich detail.
This is a multi-part outfit filled out with among the very best that the genre has to offer. However, Sasha’s Bloc never plays, individually or collectively, like a band intent on wowing you with their technical prowess and, likewise, never steps on their playing partners. “Runaway Blues” is an apt example of these tendencies in action. The ensemble ably offers listeners a multi-layered track utilizing a variety of instruments, yet none of these top notch players fail to integrate themselves into the larger scheme of the song. It’s quite clear that listening is key for a Sasha’s Bloc performance to work and rarely will you hear a group of musicians as in tune with one another as they are here.
Grammy winning vocal group Take 6’s Alvin Chea lends his glittering singing skills to the song. His skills, however, go far beyond memorable technical ability. Chea inhabits the song’s lyrics as only a master interpreter can and dramatizes each phrase with powerful emotive qualities. His restraint is key to making this work. Delivering some theatrical, cartoonish take on these lyrics would cheapen their introspective slant and Chea seems firmly in control from the outset. He, likewise, makes a variety of excellent adjustments responding to the dominant instrument in assorted passages. A great example of this is his transition from the opening lines when he’s poised against nothing but piano compared to a mere minute later when he integrates his singing into a larger band sound. He’s more assertive, his phrasing sharper, but it’s carefully controlled for maximum effect.
The lyrical content has a light poetic touch and definitely looks within. Despite the occasional remonstrance in the lyric, it comes across as quite forgiving in the end and merely wishing the best for its subject. It shows real empathy for personal pain and isn’t fattened up by even an extra word. Their excellence in a genre typically undemanding of lyrical excellence highlights how astonishingly complete this song is. Sasha’s Bloc isn’t happy just reproducing sounds of yesteryear. They are looking back to the past in order to inform the present and seamlessly weave modern sensibilities into a long-standing musical formula. They are never predictable – rather than serving listeners a powerful musical and vocal experience, Sasha’s Bloc offers a complete entertainment experience that will also speak to your heart and experience.