The question, "what do a rabbi, Jesus and Darius Milhaud have in common?" may sound like the setup to a joke. The punchline, in this case is both fascinating and revealing: they were Dave Brubeck's three most influential teachers. They were also Jewish, which may at least partially explain why the non-Jewish jazz icon was comfortable working with Jewish ideas and themes in his music.
Newly available on our website today is the complete oral history the Milken Archive conducted with Dave and Iola Brubeck in 2003 (an excerpt was available previously). Divided into three sections, the Brubecks discuss how they saw and used music, jazz in particular, as a way to unite people from all walks of life, all religions and all parts of the world. The power of jazz was a phenomena that Dave witnessed repeatedly—whether while touring Soviet Union satellite states where he attended secret meetings of jazz musicians, or when touring the segregated American South and quite literally putting African-American sounds and musicians front and center.
The Brubecks rarely missed an opportunity to use music's unifying power to maximum effect. In the cantata Gates of Justice—the focal point of this oral history—they successfully combined Bach, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Martin Luther King, Jr., a shofar call-to-arms, and a Mexican Hat Dance to unite cultures and generations.
"What will tomorrow bring? … That's up to you."
— Iola Brubeck, Gates of Justice
Listen to Dave and Iola Brubeck share the inspirations behind and significance of Gates of Justice, as well as their hopes and visions for future generations.
We've profiled the fascinating history of Jonathan Klein's Hear, O Israel a few times in our news and features. Now, the story of a how a remarkable, private-label Jewish prayer service featuring Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and other jazz greats came to be recorded in 1967 (and rerecorded in 1992) has its own website.