by RJ FROMETA
Can you talk to us more about the story behind your latest track Breakfast?
I always wanted to write a song that will have an authentic New Orleans Sound. I am addicted to the early ragtime period and have been listening to the music of the Brass Band Dixie for the last 30 years. Early in my life, when I was 13, I attended a concert in Moscow. It was Chicago Preservation Hall Band and the average age of the musicians in the band I think was 75 to 80…! They barely walked on stage, but when they took their horns, we all forgot about the age and listened to the most incredible ragtime music full of passion, freedom and joy! That is how I wanted Breakfast to sound!
I also wanted to inspire my listeners with the hope that life is so beautiful and yet so short that we must enjoy every moment of being on this planet! And you should start with Breakfast and keep that feeling in your heart!
How was the filming/performance experience during your recent CD launch concerts?
It was absolutely great! It was inspiring to see so many people coming to see us! We sold out all 4 concerts and our audience listened with great intensity! We had an amazing reception!
But most importantly for me was the camaraderie and support from all the band members. We were one unit with love for what we were performing and the energy that transcended to our listeners!
Jane Monheit was so inspiring and soulful! I listened to her and felt a great joy in my heart! Alvin Chea was kind, gentle and performed with passion that was palpable. Tony Galla and Nora Rothman were funny, playful and incredibly sensitive to each other. It was a great partnership and support between them! The Horn Section was amazing to say the least: Bob MCchesney on trombone, Brandon Fields on tenor sax, Alex Budman on the baritone Sax and Key Palmer on the trumpet! When they played solos or Dixie as a group the audience was on their feet clapping and cheering.
The single comes off your new material Heart On Fire – what’s the story behind the title?
I love jazz ballads! And at that moment in my life I felt lonely and vulnerable! I was thinking about my life, relationships and feelings that I was craving for! I wrote this song “Heart on Fire” I think in 2-3 hours!! When I finished I thought to myself , who would be the perfect singer to deliver this tune? I thought about Jane Monheit right away! Luckily she agreed to record this tune with us!
How was the recording and writing process? And – Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
All the songs in that album have my personal life observations. I am not a professional lyricist and have to find inspirations around my daily life. I remember waking up some mornings and feeling the need to write about a romantic “Lonely Day in Paris”, or “Anything is Possible”, when I felt that people were telling me what to do and I wanted to follow my own path.
I wrote “Manhattan” when I visited the great city and felt the need to tell my friend about it!
The recording was one of the best moments for me in the whole process! I always tell my fellow musicians that I like the kitchen more than anything! The process of creation is the most significant for me. We always record live, and I find it the most inspiring for everybody.
In Jazz, the best music is born when you are speaking through the notes and exchange ideas. And that’s what live recording is to me!
Everybody was great in the process and having Jane with us was very important!
How did your love for big band jazz get started?
It took some time for me to grow musically and mentally to get to the point of a big band! It is not the number of the musicians on stage that counts! It is the sound that matters! We worked very hard on it, and my partners Bob MChesney and Brandon Fields were instrumental in achieving that! We went through many musicians before we found the core group that we felt had that sound playing together! Remember it is a Group effort!
Did you initially want to start a jazz band? How did Sasha’s Bloc come together?
When I started almost 3 years ago it was a small 5 piece ensemble. It grew exponentially as we started to play the gigs in LA clubs. I had so many ideas and sounds in my head that I kept adding more and more people! Some of my partners kept asking me why I was doing it, and often I did not have a good answer for them, but I was driven by the music and was going with my gut feeling!
What is it like to have a Grammy Nominee, Jane Monheit, featured in the album — and how did that relationship develop?
It was a blessing! I was following Jane’s music for many years, and I think she is one of the best jazz vocalists of all time! When I was preparing for the recording and thought about the female vocalist for the project her name was on the top of my list! We got in touch with her agent and send her 4 songs that I had in mind. I was ecstatic when she accepted!
Working with her in the studio was an absolute joy. She is punctual, very professional, easy to work with, open to new ideas and has a very distinctive stile! What else can you ask for?
Will you be hitting the road this year?
I hope so! We are working on it. We will be doing a concert in Los Angeles on September 18 at the Wallis Annenberg Theater with Jane Monheit and Alvin Chea for KJAZZ Radio.
What else is happening next in Sasha´s Bloc´s world?
My goal is to share our music with people around the world and to bring back the sound of 1920’s with modern interpretation for the public to appreciate the greatness of it!