SONS OF SEPHARAD

"The Sons of the Sepharad"

Sefarad

The 13 songs on the Sons of Sepharad's self-titled album sound like folk tunes from all around the Mediterranean. Or at least that's what they sound like when the singing isn't too ostentatious.

The members of this quintet are based in the U.S. and Canada, but their roots are in Morocco, Greece and -- ancestrally -- Spain. Although they sing in a half-dozen languages, including English, their spiritual tongue is Ladino, the meld of Hebrew and Spanish spoken by the Sephardim, the Jews exiled in 1492 by Columbus's patrons, Ferdinand and Isabella. Yet on this album, religious odes like "Shimon Bar Yochai" are outnumbered by love ballads whose sentiments are very nearly universal.

Accompanied by virtuoso oudist George Mgrdichian and supple percussionist Rex Beninacasa, tenors Aaron Bensoussan and Alberto Mizrahi and baritone Gerard Edery sometimes sing in rich but simple harmony, which suits pretty tunes like "Adio Querida." But on such songs as "Scalerico de Oro" and "B'rosh Hashana," Edery and Mizrahi engage in vocal acrobatics that overwhelm the material. They take music of farms and villages and force it into the opera house.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Tuesday at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. * To hear a free Sound Bite from the Sons of Sepharad, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8132. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)