Mike Block and Sandeep Das, Where the Soul Never Dies Review
by J. Pepper
Cellist Mike Block and tablaist Sandeep Das have come together to create a beautiful tapestry of fourteen sounds that embody the title, Where the Soul Never Dies. Block, a revered cellist, composer, and singer, has even caught Yo-Yo Ma’s attention, who titled him “ideal musician of the 21st-Century.” Block is a Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble (SRE) member and has extensively toured throughout the world with SRE. Also recognized as the first cellists to adopt a strap to stand and move while playing. With “The Block Strap,” he was the first standing cellist to perform at Carnegie Hall. Partnered with Sandeep Das, who is a 2019-2020 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow. He began his career debut at 17 with legendary Sitarist Pt. Ravi Shankar. He has expanded his roots beyond the traditions of Indian music to collaborate with musicians from across the globe. Das is also a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble (SRE).
Their co-leader release, Where the Soul Never Dies, offers a depth of possibilities. From Bach to traditional Indian melodies to John Zorn with a dollop of original compositions. A beautiful melding of cross genres that evolves with a rich dialogue between the players. Though most of the tracks are instrumental or the voice is used as a rhythmic instrument on the title track “Where the Soul Never Dies,” Block vocally renders a mesh of the spiritual song “Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram” (India) and “Where the Soul Never Dies” (America) in a beguiling and stirring performance. The artists proclaim the songs are “symbolizing love and infinite divinity within us.”
Another notable track on the album is their original “Fight or Flight.” An airy tune that builds into a display of great technique and command of their instruments. This track exemplifies the album itself as elements of the various musical styles can be heard within the essence of this track. Das creates a fiery vocal improvisation that is nothing short of virtuosic. Where the Soul Never Dies is an entrancing listen enlivened by the imaginations of Block and Das, who seemingly are connected in mind and spirit throughout. A must-have!