Photo: David Hansen
    ©2004 The Newport Daily News

The Gates of Justice
Opening concert of the 2004 Newport Jazz Festival

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   Program Notes
   Review: The Providence Journal
   Review: The Newport Daily News

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2004
Rogers High School Auditorium
Newport RI

Russell Gloyd, conductor

The Dave Brubeck Quartet
The Chamber Brass Ensemble
Cantor Alberto Mizrahi, Tenor
Kevin Deas, Baritone

The Providence Singers
Julian Wachner, Artistic Director

Preparation by Julian Wachner and Andrew Clark

Dave Brubeck (b. 1920): The Gates of Justice (1969)

  • I. Lord, the Heavens Cannot Contain Thee
  • II. O Come, Let Us Sing
  • IIIa. Open the Gates
  • IIIb. Chorale: Open the Gates
  • IVa. Except the Lord Build the House
  • IVb. Improvisation: Except the Lord Build the House
  • V. Lord, Lord, What Will Tomorrow Bring?
  • VI. Ye Shall Be Holy
  • VII. Shout Unto the Lord
  • VIII. When I Behold Thy Heavens
  • IX. How Glorious Is Thy Name
  • X. The Lord Is Good
  • XI. His Truth is a Shield
  • XII. O Come, Let us Sing a New Song

    Program Notes

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About The Gates of Justice

The Gates of Justice is a cantata based on biblical and Hebrew liturgical text comprised of the words of Martin Luther King and the Jewish sage Hillel, as well as lyrics by Brubeck’s wife Iola, with whom he collaborated on this and other works. It was a joint commission by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) – the lay umbrella association of Reform synagogues in the United States – and the College Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati.

During exploratory discussions with the UAHC, Brubeck pointed to the explicit connection between the historical experience of the Jewish people and that of American blacks, and he expressed his conviction that both peoples possess traditional spiritual values with important meaning for contemporary society.

The world premieré of The Gates of Justice was given at the fiftieth General Assembly of the UAHC on October 17, 1969, in Miami, Florida, preceded by a preview performance at the dedication of a new building at Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati. Thirty-five years later, Brubeck still describes its message as humanistic and universal, an echo of prophetic calls in the bible for social justice. His belief in the common ground between American Jews and blacks remains undiminished: “They were both ensalved, uprooted from their homelands and wandered in the diaspora,” he said in connection with a 1997 performance. “When I began exploring the music, I was thrilled to hear the similarities among Hebraic chant and spirituals and blues.”

Brubeck has therefore suggested that wherever possible, the tenor role should be sung by a bona fide cantor and the baritone by a black singer familiar with the sonorities and style of spirituals and blues.

    The Providence Journal
    August 12, 2004

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Brubeck’s musical collage opens jazz fest

Journal Pop Music Writer

NEWPORT – In the notes to the recording of Gates of Justice, Dave Brubeck wrote that he was trying to use the juxtaposition of musical styles to construct “a bridge upon which the universal theme of brotherhood could be communicated.” Last night at Rogers High School, for the opening event of the JVC Jazz Festival-Newport, he went out and did it.

The piece (“Oratorio? Cantata? I'm not sure,” Brubeck said in his opening remarks) takes its lyrics from biblical texts, the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and the words of the Jewish sage Hillel, as well as original text by Brubeck’s wife, Iola Brubeck. Brubeck’s intention was to celebrate the bond between Jewish Americans and African-Americans. Last night, the collage of musical styles made an even more unifying statement.

Gates of Justice was performed by Brubeck and his regular jazz trio; a 14-piece chamber ensemble of brass and percussion; a choir (in this case the Providence Singers) and two vocal soloists (Brubeck prefers a Jewish cantor and an African-American baritone). Last night, as on the recording, the soloist roles were filled by Cantor Alberto Mizrahi and Kevin Deas, respectively.

The lyrical themes – the equality and dignity of all people – were reinforced by the mix of vocal styles. Mizrahi’s melismatic cantor singing played with and off of Deas’ American blues patterns, and the Providence Singers’ Western sacred-style harmonies tied it together. Instrumentally there were triumphant brass bursts as well as breakneck jazz from Brubeck and his trio (drummer Randy Jones, bassist Michael Moore and saxophonist Bobby Militello).

This amalgamation reached its fruition early, in the “Open the Gates Chorale,” with rhythmically complex unisons among the instrumentalists as well as blazing solos from Militello and Jones. Later, the mix of Mizrahi’s and Deas’ voices reached its peak on the last line of “Except the Lord Build the House,” from Psalm 127:1 (“The watchman waketh but in vain”), as Mizrahi topped out and Deas bottomed out simultaneously. And Brubeck and his group threw in a couple of improvised jazz takes on the blues, with Militello blazing away and Brubeck alternately caressing and pounding.

Brubeck opened the concert by saying that when someone asks him how he can combine classical music or sacred music with jazz, “I know that they know nothing.”

He proved his point by remembering a visit to Poland in 1958 during which he told a group of Polish piano players that all jazz pianists were in debt to Chopin. Then, Brubeck played a piece of his inspired by his visit, first solo in a stately classical style, then with his trio swinging behind him, banging away on his grand piano as if it were a honky-tonk upright.

Mixing it up was what last night was all about.

    The Newport Daily News
    August 12, 2004

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Brubeck goes back to school

By James J. Gillis

NEWPORT – If Dave Brubeck had any concerns about his cantata Gates of Justice working at a jazz festival, a six-minute standing ovation at the end of the hour-long piece surely set him straight.

The 83-year-old jazz pianist, a mainstay at Newport festivals since 1955, dazzled a sold-out crowd of about 1,000 Wednesday night inside a muggy Rogers High School auditorium. Brubeck performed the classically driven piece with his trio, the Providence Singers, tenor soloist Cantor Alberto Mihrazi and baritone soloist Kevin Deas.

The performance was the first in a series of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival.

Brubeck first wrote Gates of Justice in 1969, drawing from the struggles and common ground between African-Americans and Jews. The words come from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Jewish sage Hillel, with additional lyrics by Brubeck’s wife, Iola.

The pianist composed the current version as a tribute to the 40-year anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A few audience members said they arrived believing this would be a standard Dave Brubeck jazz show (though publicity was clear throughout), but no one seemed disappointed. Brubeck started the program with a song that translates into Polish from the American “Thank You,” a piece that calls to mind Chopin in the start and finish, with a long jazz improvisational passage in the middle.

Brubeck’s group of Randy Jones on drums, Michael Moore on bass and standout Bobby Militello on saxophone seemed energized by the opportunity to stretch beyond their standard fare. Militello carried the night, no matter what the material called for.

Gates of Justice, as played Wednesday night, is a somewhat challenging piece, with abrupt switches and gorgeous choral segments, and Brubeck’s group tore through the jazz interludes in between.

Brubeck re-recorded the piece in 2001, after original Decca tapes vanished when that record company folded. Brubeck recorded with Deas, Mihrazi and conductor Russell Gloyd, who admirably held things together throughout the night. Deas, in particular, was a marvel, whether singing solo, with Mihrazi or backed by the Providence Singers, who total about 60 performers.

Brubeck spent much of the night grinning, as he kept an eye on Gloyd conducting the orchestra, waiting for the piece to shift from classical to jazz and back to classical. When Gates of Justice closed, the crowd in the steamy auditorium (we can only dream of a day when Rogers High School has a budget for air conditioning) stood for six minutes, saluting the packed stage of performers, particularly Brubeck, Militello and Deas.

Conductor Gloyd told the crowd he has been part of Gates of Justice productions for years. And for the first time, he announced, there would be a new twist: “We’re going to do an encore.”

And the crowd cheered some more; though some craved a classical/jazz hybrid of Take Five, the players went a different, but satisfying, route.

At the outset, Brubeck thanked jazz festival producer George Wein (who could not attend, since he is recovering from surgery) for taking a risk. As it turned out, this is a night (like the festival’s 1991 Louis Armstrong tribute) people will talk about for a long time.

    The Bottom Line

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A dream come true

In its coverage of a Thursday-evening Newport Jazz Festival gala to benefit the Newport Preservation Society, the Newport Daily News (August 13, 2004) reported:

Pianist [Dave] Brubeck, 83, remained aglow 24 hours after an audience at Rogers High School gave his Gates of Justice concert a six-minute standing ovation. “That’s the greatest night I’ve ever had with that piece, and I’ve been playing it for 30 years,” Brubeck said. “It really was one of the great moments of my life, a dream come true.”

To which the Providence Singers say, “AMEN!”