In 1966, Cantor David Benedict, cantor at Temple Israel in Lawrence, New York, commissioned Kingsley to compose three liturgical settings utilizing jazz. At the time, Kingsley considered it a natural extension of his work in commercial music, even though jazz should properly be viewed as an art form rather than a commercial medium; and he saw the artistic possibilities of infusing sacred music with jazz expression. In connection with a subsequent recording of those pieces, Rabbi Joel Y. Zion wrote that it was altogether reasonable to make use of jazz, as a patently American idiom, in combination with other, peculiarly Jewish features:
Kingsley’s compositions create an amazingly compatible fusion of American jazz idioms and traditional Hebrew character. The exciting syncopated rhythmic inventions of the composer, coupled with his use of the modal strains of Jewish music, result in a new 20th-century American Jewish musical expression.
The original title was Three Hebrew Prayers in a Jazz Idiom. Kingsley later excerpted two of the three settings and retitled the pair Jazz Psalms. The term psalms is used therein in its wider generic sense of “sacred song,” since these are prayers from the Hebrew liturgy, not texts from the biblical Book of Psalms. The Milken Archive recording was made with live jazz musicians, with no synthesized sounds.
Sung in Hebrew
Cause us, O Lord, our God, to retire for the evening in peace and then again to arise unto life, O our King, and spread Your canopy of peace over us. Direct us with Your counsel and save us for the sake of Your name. Be a shield around us. Remove from our midst all enemies, plague, sword, violence, famine, hunger, and sorrow. And also remove evil temptation from all around us, sheltering us in the shadow of Your protecting wings. For indeed You are a gracious and compassionate King. Guard our going and coming, for life and in peace, from now on and always. [Spread over us the sheltering canopy of Your peace. You are worshiped, O Lord (He is worshiped, and His name is worshiped), who spreads the canopy of peace over us and over all Your people Israel, and over all Jerusalem. Amen.]
May they who observe the Sabbath and experience its delight rejoice in Your sovereignty. The people that hallows the seventh day will benefit from Your bounty and abundance. For You took pleasure in the seventh day and made it a holy day, calling it the most desirable day—a remembrance of creation.
Performers: John Beal, Bass; Harvey Estrin, Flute; Daniel Gottlieb, Percussion; Gordon Gottlieb, Percussion; Gershon Kingsley, Conductor; Patrick Rebillot, Piano; The Kingsley Singers; Lisa Vroman, Soprano
Publisher: Kingsley Sound
Translation: Rabbi Morton M. Leifman
The Kingsley Jazz Singers are: Al Arioli, Jane Barnett, Mary Sue Berry, Stephen Carter-Hicks, Maureen Dodson, Paul Evans, Christine Faith, Gary Green, Jeff Lyons, Michael Mark, Helen Miles, Arleen Martell, Mark Rehnstrom, Lenny Roberts, Paul Rolnick, David Seatter, Patricia Steiner, Terry Textor