Strings Attached To Sephardic Culture


The guitar rings like chimes, sounding almost celestial. The bowed lines of the double-bass sigh like a human voice, yearning. The textures and timbres that come out of the instruments are as rich and full as those of a much larger ensemble. It is, quite simply, an enchantingly beautiful sound.

Rémy Yulzari modestly gives a lot of credit to Ryan Streber, the sound engineer on “Azafea: A Spanish Odyssey,” but even more of the credit belongs to Yulzari and his playing partner, Nadav Lev, the bassist and guitarist, respectively, on this new album. The proof of that assertion will come when the two play an acoustic concert on Tuesday, Oct. 14.

Yulzari and Lev bring an interesting mix of talents and interests to the project, a lively blend of Sephardic and Spanish music filtered through a sensibility formed in chamber music, jazz and klezmer. As Yulzari noted in a telephone interview last week, Lev’s guitar inevitably links him to Spanish and South American music; that he has won the Segovia Prize underlines that connection vividly.

In addition to his own training, Yulzari brings to the table half his family history.

“The father of my father is from Bulgaria, so I have Sephardic roots,” the French bassist explained. “There wasn’t much Jewish music in the family when I was growing up; my father loves classical music, so I heard a lot of classical and French pop. But when I was around 14 I got into Jewish music and [as a result] he became interested, so we listened to a lot of that together.”

One bond that the two instrumentalists share is the fact that each began playing music on his own and only began receiving extensive training in his teens.

“That was the first thing I liked about [Nadav] when we started playing together,” Yulzari said. “We both began with folk music, not classical, and we started out playing a lot of improvisation and being free; then we went to conservatoire and studied classical. So we can play together and feel really free, but with high technique.”

The pair met about five years ago. At the time, Yulzari was racking up frequent flier miles visiting New York and pondering a permanent move to the city from France. He was looking for a guitarist for duets when Israeli friends introduced him to Lev.

“He knew how to play with me,” Yulzari said. “It’s difficult to get adjusted to someone new or a new instrument. He succeeded to adapt his play and sound to the bass to make it sound great.”

And how.

The Remy Yulzari-Nadav Lev Duo will perform “Azafea: A Spanish Odyssey” on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Museum at Eldridge Street (12 Eldridge St.). They will be joined for the concert by guest artists Frank London and Rich Stein. Their CD, “Azafea: A Spanish Odyssey,” is available on the Les Editions de l’IEMJ (European Institute for Jewish Music), as part of their “Discoveries” series highlighting contemporary Jewish music and artists. The album can be purchased at the concert or on-line from, among others.