This is a further release in the
Naxos series from the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music
(see link below to reviews of previous releases). Dave
Brubeck is best known as a jazz pianist but considers himself
“a composer who plays the piano”. After the Second World War
he studied composition with Darius Milhaud and, during the
1960s, he wrote his first orchestral and choral compositions.
The Gates of Justice was written soon after the assassination
of Martin Luther King, at a time when relations between American
blacks and Jews were strained. Brubeck’s aim was to bring
them together and he based the words of this cantata, which
are sung in English, on diverse sources, including Hebrew
texts and the speeches of Martin Luther King.
work is also an interesting collage of contrasting styles
– Hebraic modes sung by the cantor tenor, negro spirituals
sung by the baritone and chorus, and jazz episodes including
an improvisation for piano. Brubeck’s synthesis of these is
convincing and never jars. There are twelve sections, the
longest of which “Open the gates” is the core of the work.
In this section both soloists and the chorus sing imploringly
before Brubeck’s Trio (with Michael Moore on double bass and
Randy Jones on drums) takes over. Throughout the work the
Trio largely takes the place of an orchestral accompaniment
although the brass section of the orchestra of Baltimore Choral
Arts Society also plays an important part. Both the soloists
are excellent and the singing of Kevin Deas is particularly
memorable in “When I behold the heavens”. The work concludes
climactically with three linked sections: “The Lord is good”,
“His truth is a shield” (based on Luther King) and “Oh, come
let us sing a new song”. Brubeck certainly rises to these
challenges and achieves a convincing peroration. This is powerful
and approachable music performed with considerable commitment
under the direction of Russell Gloyd. The recorded sound is
well-balanced and of high quality throughout.
of this budget-price disc deserves special mention – it is
superb and would put most full-price issues in the shade.
In a 24-page booklet, the composer’s original program note
is part of detailed documentation about the work and performers.
This includes full texts and sources, and is also generous
was made in 2001 immediately following a concert performance.
It is not claimed to be a première but I haven’t been able
to find any evidence that the work has been set down previously.
That seems to matter little because it is hard to imagine
a more definitive performance than the one on this disc. If,
as I sense it may have been, this work had languished unperformed
for some years, then its time seems to have arrived. Highly
Patrick C Waller
Link to previous
reviews in this series: