Before I lived in Tucson and became The Tucson Songstress, I was living in California and worked for an incredible initiative of the Milken Family Foundation called The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music. It was a dream job. Though my work was primarily in an office environment, we were working on preserving Jewish music that would otherwise be lost if not recorded. There were amazing recordings with symphonies and orchestras all over the world, oral histories with the composers and musicians, memorabilia…you name it, the Milken Archive did it all on a very noble quest to make certain that this highly specialized music was preserved in the highest quality. I was truly proud to work for such fine visionaries and on a project that I knew was historical and would last way beyond my lifetime.
One of the most interesting recordings, in my opinion, was with Dave Brubeck, renowned Jazz pianist and composer. To me, what made it so interesting was that Brubeck wasn’t Jewish, yet he had written an incredible composition entitled “The Gates of Justice,” which was filled with Jewish content. Brubeck was an activist and through this piece of music, he was trying to bring American Jews and African Americans together. Here’s what the Milken Archive writes about “The Gates of Justice” on their site:
“Dave Brubeck has always maintained that he wrote his second large-scale sacred composition The Gates of Justice (1969) to bring together—and back together—the Jewish people and American blacks. The natural bond forged between them during the civil rights movement in the early 1960s had weakened and was starting to break down by 1969, especially after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968.
…The Gates of Justice is a cantata based on biblical and Hebrew liturgical texts—together with quotations from Martin Luther King’s speeches, as well as from Negro spirituals and from the Jewish sage Hillel, and with 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 the 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.”
I was so sad to learn of Brubeck’s passing yesterday, and today, as I sit in my family room on my computer with the quiet stillness of my family still all sleeping, I write this blog post and reflect that today would have been his 92nd birthday. It seems so apropos that on his birthday, I would be remembering all of his musical contributions and my time spent working for the Milken Archive. How amazing that my office work 10 years ago had something to do with such powerful and important music. That just makes me feel so good!
On a side note, I must tell you all about the picture I chose today to represent Brubeck. (see above) At the Milken Archive recording session of “The Gates of Justice,” this extraordinary photograph was taken, and I fell in love. What an incredible statement with the reflection of the piano keys in Brubeck’s glasses and giving the appearance of eyelashes! Such photographic magic couldn’t have been planned! I was so taken with this photo that I begged to have a portrait of it hanging in my office. Not only did the Milken Family Foundation honor my wish, but they blew it up to huge proportions, and every time they gave a tour, they would stop by my desk to proudly show it off. I gazed at those musical eyes everyday for several years. It is true what they say…eyes really are the windows to your soul, and this photo shares Brubeck’s soul with all of us eternally.
Rather than just a song of the day today and to honor the great late Dave Brubeck, I am going to give you a bunch of links that will take you to some incredible video and musical footage of this legendary Jazz composer. Yesterday, I wrote to the Milken Archive to ask permission to use my favorite photo in my blog. Not only did they have no problem with it, but the gave me so many other resources that I, in turn, will pass along to all of you.
“The Gates of Justice” with auditory samples and history of the piece: Click HERE
Another Jewish Brubeck piece recorded with the Milken Archive called “The Commandments”: Click HERE
An oral history (audio) with Dave and Iola Brubeck recorded with the Milken Archive: Click HERE
Finally, “The Gates of Justice” video footage and oral history recorded by the Milken Archive that I found on Youtube: Click HERE
Thank you to the Milken Archive for giving me such incredible experiences that have stayed with me all of these years and have influenced the Jewish musician that I am today, and thank you to Dave Brubeck for the incredible contributions he gave to music. To you both….your music will stay with me forever.