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Jewish Journal

The Sound

by Tom Tugend

January 15, 2004 | 7:00 pm

Jazz icon Dave Brubeck says he wanted to construct a musical bridge between Jews and blacks in composing "The Gates of Justice," a 50-minute oratorio celebrating the joint civil rights struggles of the two partners.

A new CD recording of "The Gates of Justice," will be released on Jan. 20, the day after the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The oratorio, featuring the Brubeck Trio, soloists and chorus, is based on biblical and Hebrew liturgical texts, Negro spirituals, quotations from Hillel's writings and King's speeches, with additional lyrics by Brubeck's wife, Iola. It is scored for chorus, jazz trio, tenor and baritone.

Release of the record was announced by the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, which has launched an ambitious project to record the entire range of Jewish musical expression in America over the past 350 years.

During the next two years, 50 CDs with more than 600 first-time or newly recorded works of sacred and secular music will be released and distributed.

Brubeck composed "Gates of Justice" in 1969, when the bond that Jews and blacks had forged during the civil rights struggle were fraying and distrust between the two groups was rising.

To construct a bridge of brotherhood, Brubeck used "a complex of musical styles [jazz, rock, spirituals, traditional].... Overlaying music from the Beatles, Chopin, Israeli, Mexican and Russian folksongs, Simon & Garfunkel, improvised jazz and rock, I wrote a collage of sounds for the climactic section, 'The Lord Is Good.'"

Released on the Naxos American Classics label, the recording features the voices of bass baritone Kevin Deas, tenor Cantor Alberto Mizrahi and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society and Brass Ensemble, under conductor Russell Gloyd.

The Milken Archive is also releasing the recorded works of Bruce Adolphe on Jan. 20, which includes "Ladino Songs of Love and Suffering," excerpts from the opera "Mikhoels the Wise" and "Out of the Whirlwind," an oratorio on the Holocaust.

"The Gates of Justice" and other CDs in the series are priced at between $6.99-$7.99 each and can be ordered through www.milkenarchive.org, various online retailers and record stores carrying the Naxos Classics label.

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