Dave Brubeck – the Gates of Justice

The following is from Nicole Catarino’s class presentation:

Dave Brubeck

  • Born: December 6, 1920 in California
  • Brubeck was taught piano from age 4 by his mother
  • Would often forfeit reading the music in favor of memorization
  • Worked as pianist in local jazz groups when he was 13
  • Studied music at the College of the Pacific (1938-42) and composition at Mills College under well-known composers
  • Formed and led music groups at both colleges, a 12-piece orchestra and octet with fellow classmates respectively
  • Formed and then reformed a trio/quartet in 1951 that become known nationally; only constant members were Paul Desmond and Brubeck; disbanded 1967
  • Achieved greatest commercial success after recording of “Take Five” (1960)
  • First jazz musician to regularly tour college campuses
  • Famous for bringing classical music influence into jazz; “West Coast Movement”
  • Died: December 5, 2012 in Connecticut

The Gates of Justice (1969)
Historical Significance

  • Dave always said that he wrote The Gates of Justice to “bring together—and back together—the Jewish people and American blacks.”
  • A natural bond had been formed between the groups in the early 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement and was starting to break by 1969
  • “They were both enslaved, uprooted from their homelands and wandered in the diaspora”
  • Anti-Semitic suggestions from spokesmen from black groups, Jewish commitment to the fight was dwindling
  • Anger, fear, and distrust rampant — “The essential message of The Gates of Justiceis the brotherhood of man.”

The “Band”:

  • Dave Brubeck, piano, combo organ
  • Robert Delcamp, organ
  • *Jack Six, bass
  • *Alan Dawson, drums
  • Cantor Harold Orbach, tenor voice
  • McHenry Boatwright, bass baritone voice
  • The Westminster Choir
  • The Cincinnati Brass Ensemble
  • Erich Kunzel, conductor.

Track List:

  1. Lord, The Heaven Of Heavens
  2. Oh, Come Let Us Sing
  3. Open The Gates
  4. Except The Lord Build The House
  5. Lord, Lord
  6. Ye Shall Be Holy
  7. Shout Unto The Lord
  8. When I Behold Thy Heavens
  9. (How) Glorious Is Thy Name
  10. The Lord Is Good
  11. His Truth Is A Shield
  12. Oh, Come Let Us Sing A New Song

Role of the Vocalists:

  • Cantor: Tenor voice, melodies stem from the Hebraic modes, represents the prophetic voice
  • Black baritone: Melodies stem from blues and spiritual music, symbol of contemporary men
  • Choir: Represents the voices of the oppressed, the “pawns of history”

I. Lord, The Heavens Cannot Contain Thee


“O Lord, the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee;
How much less this house that I have builded!
Yet have Thou respect unto the prayer of Thy servant,
And of Thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place.
Yea, hear, and when Thou hearest, forgive.

“Moreover, concerning the stranger that is not of Thy people Israel,
When he shall pray toward this house, hear Thou;
And do according to all that the stranger calleth to Thee,
That all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name.”

  • All lyrics are taken from biblical and Hebrew liturgical texts
  • Very ominous and slightly foreboding; reminiscent of harmonic scale
  • Classical leaning, jazz not the focus but still seen in chords and harmonies
  • Smooth transition into the next piece

II. Oh, Come Let Us Sing


“Oh, come let us sing unto the Lord;
Let us raise our voice in joy to the Rock of our salvation.
Sing unto the Lord a new song.
Sing unto the Lord, all the earth.
Sing unto the Lord, bless His name,
Proclaim His salvation day to day.
Honor and majesty are before Him.
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Tremble before Him all the earth.
Let us sing unto the Lord..”

  • Much more traditional sounding – Handel-sounding
  • One of the “piers” of the song
  • Cheerful and celebratory; “call to worship”
  • Jazz elements still heard in the background with the harmonies and rhythms
  • Lyrics from the Union Prayer Book

III.a Open the Gates

(2:16-2:44 & 3:34-4:00)

“Open the gates, open the gates.
Open to me the gates of justice,
I will enter them and give thanks to the Lord.
The gate is the Lord’s, the just shall enter in.
I will give thanks to Thee, for Thou hast answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing, and is marvelous to behold.
Go through, go through the gates;
Clear ye the way for the people.
Make way! Cast up the highway, gather out the stones.
Clear the way.
Take up the stumbling block out of the way of the people!..”

  • First time that the jazz component of the piece and the baritone shine through
  • Call to action; chanting of choir in the background to “Open the Gate” gives dark feel; dissonant
  • “The stone” represents those minorities that were cast out
  • Open the doors to the people

III.b Open the Gates Chorale


“Open the gates. Throw wide the gates to me.
Is not this the fast that I have chosen,
to loose the fetters of wickedness,
to undo the bands of the yoke,
And let the oppressed go free?
And when ye break every yoke, is it not to deal thy
bread to the hungry?
Open the doors to bring the poor that are
cast out to thy house.
When thou see the naked thou shalt cover him.
Then thou shalt call and the Lord will answer;
Thou shalt cry, and He will say, “Here I am!”

  • Continuation of past piece
  • More call to action to protect those and help those in need
  • Open chords and octaves help create Gregorian feel
  • Return to more traditional sound until “Here I am!” and then hopeful once more – back to jazz
  • More interaction between soloists

IV.a&b Except the Lord Build the House


“Except the Lord build the house
They labor in vain that build it.
Except the Lord keep the city,
The watchman wakethbut in vain.”

  • Call and response/weaving of soloists
  • Return to the hopeless/dramatic classical sound once more in IV.a, forlorn
  • In IV.b, lone piano that sounds like single voice, more classical than jazz, improv often seen here

V. Lord, Lord


“Lord, Lord, what will tomorrow bring?
Today I felt an arrow stinging in a wound so deep,
My eyes refuse to weep.
What will tomorrow bring?
Lord, how can I face this day?
Each dawn I walk the city’s silence with a sense of peace.
They speak!
N*gger! Whitey! Jew!
There is no peace.
They speak!
There is no peace.
What will tomorrow bring?.”

  • First real “political” portion of Dave Brubeck’s piece
  • Baritone featured; once again, more classical than jazzy; solo piano brought in to decorate towards end
  • Explains the connection minorities and general people have with each other when it comes to facing discrimination

VI. Ye Shall Be Holy

“Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
Thou shalt not take vengeance nor bear any grudge
against the children of Thy people,
but thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.
If a stranger dwell with thee in your land,
ye shall not do him wrong.
And thou shalt love him as thyself.
For ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

  • Much more upbeat and jazzier, though keeping with the harmonic scale
  • “Ye Shall Be Holy” preaches kindness, “Shout Unto the Lord” preaches fighting back and protecting yourself
  • “Shout Unto” is another pier piece; it’s celebratory with communal joy, but has a grim reminder from MLK to live together, else die as fools

VII. Shout Unto the Lord

“We must stand for freedom!
Knowing that one day we will be free.
If we don’t live together as brothers,
we will die together as fools.
We are living in a land of freedom!
Free at last! I’m free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!
I’m free! Free!
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
Let him come near to me.
If the time for action is not now, when is it?”

VIII. When I Behold Thy Heavens


“When I behold Thy heavens, the works of Thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which Thou hast established;
What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?
And the son of man,
that Thou thinkestof him, yet Thou hast made him
but little lower than the angels,
and hast crowned him with glory and honor?
Thou hast made him to have dominion over
the works of Thy hands,
Thou hast put all things under his feet.
O Lord, how glorious is Thy name in all the earth..”

XI. How Glorious Thy Name


“How glorious is Thy name in all the earth!”

  • Baritone-heavy (“When I”), choir-heavy (“How Glorious”)
  • Traditionally jazz-based harmonies however, lots of dissonance and low-droning bass in “When I”
  • “How Glorious” is just a repetition of one phrase in a very traditional, triumphant style again, like “Oh, Come Let Us Sing”

X. The Lord is Good


“And His faithfulness unto all of His beautiful people,
Where do they all come from? It’s the sound of silence.
Go through the gates of justice;
then God’s will shall be done.
All people are created by the same God; we are one.
And the days of thy mourning shall be ended.
Violence shall no more be heard in thy land.
He will cover thee with His pinions,
and under His wings He will give you refuge,
refuge for all when we are one,
all generations, when we are one.”

  • Piece with strong combination of jazz and classical; introduces swing rhythms
  • Triumphant and celebratory again but with a dark quality to it at the beginning
  • Seems to represent the start of a transition

XI. His Truth is a Shield

“There are knives and there are other arms.
You have called on all of us to put them away,
To bear instead, the weapon of nonviolence,
the breastplate of righteousness, the armor of truth.
His truth is a shield and a buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flyethby day.”

  • Entirely jazz based, no vocals until the very end
  • Encompasses overwhelming idea of no violence
  • Happy, upbeat tempo and key throughout entire piece

XII.  Oh, Come Let Us Sing A New Song

“O come, let us sing a new song to the Lord.
O come let us sing a new song unto the Lord!.”

  • Grand finale; fulfilling and powerful ending; more classical than jazz but elements are still obvious
  • Final pier piece, it is “enumeration of the attributes of God in whose image we are created, is a reminder of man’s potential”
  • Even though men call upon God in their greatest times of need, they are capable of so much more than they think as parts of God’s creation

Discussion Questions

  1. How does the combination of jazz and the gospel/classical style of music add to the color and meaning of the music and album as a whole?
  2. Do you personally enjoy this combination? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think of Dave Brubeck’s approach to seeking unity between two groups of people? Is this an effective way of creating peace?


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