SCHEMIEDENHOF: Ed Gerhard, master of Open Tunings performs in Acoustic Guitar Forum
By Urs Grether
“Someone should give him a special tuning” joked someone in the audience, “what’s that” asked a colleague, “another guitar tuning” explained a third. Guitarist Ed Gerhard, an American from the East Coast, works extensively with open tunings, i.e. where the strings of the guitar are tuned differently to the normal “standard” tuning – allowing an unusually wide sound spectrum.
Technicalities immediately become unnecessary as Ed Gerhard, with his imposing presence and long flowing grey hair, takes his place on stage: it’s all about beautiful tone – every one of them. Throughout self-penned compositions and arrangements pieces flow filigree and carefree; changes in harmony and key are handled as if obvious. Gerhard is no superficial tone painter, no bluffer, and no aesthetic lightweight; this is already apparent in the left-handed Gerhard’s infallible sense of timing. There aren’t any flourishes and everything sounds absolutely necessary: when every single tone is important, then not a single note is either too much or too little. Gerhard arranges precisely and sparingly. This prominent lesson was bestowed upon the regional “Acoustic Guitar Forum,” for whom, by the way, Gerhard played his first ever concert in Switzerland.
On the Weissenborn steel guitar he first parodied Hawaiian-cliches, then unveiled the core of the song, which, like on a piece from the Fiji Islands, finally sounded once again “true.” The beauty of the sound became the sharply circumvented truth. This is a precious quality and makes Gerhard a rare ambassador.
Or, for instance on “Malaika,” that million-selling Africa transference song, Gerhard takes the piece (including the usually omitted introduction) very seriously; he invents as he compliments. In this way Gerhard, brings the poor wretch and village beauty finally together.
The two sets, peppered with many amusing anecdotes, gave, in passing, a musical autobiography. The influence of Ry Cooder, Gerhard’s dissatisfaction with “white” blues, or the shock of Blind Willie Johnsons apparently dissonant, “wrong” chord. Sadness and joy are here inseparably conjoined; this “wrong” chord – in further conjunction with this music makes actually the only possible sense.
Newspaper: Basellandlschaftliche Zeitung, Wed, 5th June 2002