By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Gates of Justice
Dave Brubeck: Russell Gloyd, conductor; Dave Brubeck Trio; Kevin Deas, baritone; Cantor Alberto Mizrahi; Baltimore Choral Arts Society and Brass Ensemble.
Milken Archive; Naxos; $6.98 CD
3 1/2 stars
Dave Brubeck's jazz cantata, The Gates of Justice, which he wrote and premiered in Cincinnati in 1969, opens with a cantorial prayer on the biblical text, "O Lord, the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee." The 12-movement piece unfolds with energy and power, in a universal message of brotherhood and nonviolence that is just as relevant today as when Brubeck wrote it.
This new recording, released earlier this month, was made three years ago with Baltimore singers and musicians. It illuminates a work that deserves revival. Brubeck's artistry is as fresh at age 80 (then) as always. His piano improvisations, woven between movements, are thoughtful and deeply personal.
The chorus plays a prominent role in this cantata. Like his jazz, Brubeck constructs his choruses with arresting harmonies and tricky rhythms. "Oh, Come Let Us Sing," on a Psalms text, is a joyous piece that is a wonderful addition to the choral repertoire.
The jazzy chorus, "Shout unto the Lord," features lots of brass, and has an imaginative jazz interlude, where Brubeck adds color with his trademark keyboard-spanning chords. "His Truth is a Shield" is hot, bold and brassy, tempered with the reflective ruminations.
The hushed, a cappella chorale, "Open the Gates," is truly stunning, and sung with moving beauty by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society.
The soloists, Cantor Alberto Mizrahi and baritone Kevin Deas, capture the power of the words. One of the cantata's highlights is "Lord, Lord," with text by Iola Brubeck sung by Deas, a number that is riveting for its power and the still relevant pain of discrimination.
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