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A Musical Melting Pot

Gerard Edery blends variety of influences into satisfying stew.

September 01, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's not uncommon in the current music scene to find the cultural casserole syndrome at work. In the style cauldron are elements from various corners of the globe, sometimes with dance-happy Western touches. The result is not always delicious.

But in the case of guitarist-singer Gerard Edery, the blend of varied cultural elements comes honestly, straight out of experience.

Edery, who performs with the masterful oud player George Mgrdichian at the University of Judaism on Wednesday night, specializes in Sephardic songs. But he does so with his own flair, borne of personal experience.

"I consider myself an arranger of traditional music rather than a musicological interpreter of that music," he said this week.

"I feel that, since it is an oral tradition, it has to be reinterpreted, fresh, again and again for it to be kept alive."

Born in Casablanca, Edery was exposed to Arabic music as a youth and later French musical culture when his family moved to Paris.

Landing in the United States in the 1970s, he heard the folk of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell while studying classical and flamenco guitar and receiving classical voice training.

He sang opera for 10 years as a baritone, but became increasingly compelled by an exploration of his roots in terms of Sephardic song--both traditional and of his own creation.

Adding to the cultural spread is his work alongside the oud, the staple of Middle Eastern traditional music.

Nine years ago, Edery met Mgrdichian, the virtuoso of the seminal lute instrument, the oud.

The occasion was the 500-year anniversary of the expulsion of the Moors from Spain.

"Being a Sephardic Jew myself, from Morocco, I was asked to participate in different festivities and concerts," Edery said. "George and I met at that time."

They recorded an album, 1991's "Romanzas Sefarditas," recently reissued on Edery's label, Sefarad Records (www.sefarad.com).

After several years on separate musical paths, the two linked up again a few years ago.

"The chemistry was still so right," Edery said. "He's been joining me on tons of gigs ever since, as a duo, because it works so well, and also in the context of the various ensembles I work with."

BE THERE

Gerard Edery and George Mgrdichian, perform Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Gindi Auditorium, University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Sepulveda Pass. Tickets $20 (310) 476-9777.

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