Father-Son Musical Duo Promote ‘Unity’ With Jewish Fusion EP

From left: Dave Gerhardt and Josh Gerhardt (Courtesy of Dave Gerhardt)

The Gerhardt family has always been musical.

Bringing up his family in Austin, Texas, Dave Gerhardt co-founded the band Bsamim, which combined Jewish music with Latin influences characteristic of the area’s local culture. His son, Josh, started playing the ukulele while abroad in Israel, later going on to learn guitar.

Now, the father-and-son duo have started their own band, LevSoul, and have recently released their first EP, “UNITY.” Working with musicians from around the Baltimore area, the Gerhardts have put their own spin on three popular Jewish hymns: a folk-influenced version of the Shema, a salsa-inspired Oseh Shalom and a blues-based Ani Ma’amin.

The family moved to Pikesville 15 years ago and are members of Suburban Orthodox Congregation.

“Josh has been steeped in the world of music ever since he was a little kid. [Bsamim] would play different festivals and simchas, and he would come along,” Dave Gerhardt recalled. “He’s a very talented multi-instrumentalist, and a very creative songwriter.”

Dave and Josh Gerhardt started playing music together after the latter returned from Israel, but what finally got them to form a duo was the COVID-19 pandemic. Being around family constantly with nowhere else to go, they started playing together more often.

“I had been writing my own songs before COVID, but I didn’t really have much hope for my Jewish songs,” Josh Gerhardt said. “It was really incredible for both of us to have something to put our Jewish songs into.”

Some of LevSoul’s inspirations include pop groups like The Beatles, blues artists like Robert Johnson and folk artists like James Taylor and the Milk Carton Kids. Dave Gerhardt added that he has a particular love of Brazilian music, explaining his salsa influences. Of course, they also draw from Jewish musicians like Shlomo Carlebach and Yosef Karduner.

“UNITY,” in his words, “serves as a little microcosm of our different influences and genres that we play, as well as our Jewish heritage.”

Dave and Josh Gerhardt both provide vocals and guitar. The rest of the roster of musicians is filled by many Jewish artists from Baltimore. These include “One Mond Band” Yehuda Mond on keyboards, Zemer Orchestra’s Nossi Gross on sax and flute, Eli Cohen on guitar, Bruce Goldenberg on drums, Avraham Rosenblum on harmonica, Alfredo Mojica of the Alfredo Mojica & Friends Salsa Band on percussion, Josh Schwartzman on bass, Alex Egner on guitar and Jeremy Englander on bass as well as recording, and mixing and mastering alongside Yoni Greenblatt.

“Baltimore has a wonderful Jewish community, and in that there’s a really nice Jewish music community,” Dave Gerhardt said. “There’s a lot of creative and very talented people, and we were fortunate to get some of them to play on ‘UNITY.’”

LevSoul’s members have a few different motivations behind releasing the EP. Setting traditional Jewish songs to unexpected genres like salsa and folk makes them more accessible to an audience who may not have experience with Jewish music. And during difficult circumstances, music helps bring people together to have a good time.

“I put a lot of personal elements and touches in my songs,” explained Josh Gerhardt. “My connection to [the song], and the emotions it makes me feel. People really connect with that, so I tried to have those emotional experiences be at the center of the songs.”

His father added his own personal touch to the EP, drawing its cover in pen and watercolor paint. He noted that he took inspiration from Jewish imagery in art, incorporating Hamsas along with LevSoul’s logo.

Before releasing “UNITY,” LevSoul put on performances at community simchas and local festivals. They hope to continue doing live performances to promote their EP, and often play with other musicians and accompanists.

“Music is a very tasty vehicle for getting involved in something,” Dave Gerhardt said. “It helps you connect with people, community and culture in different ways.”

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