Dave Brubeck has barely scratched the surface when it comes to recording his considerable catalog of sacred works. Because he was so pleased with the performance of Choral Arts of Chattanooga during a concert in 2000, he returned to the city to record this CD with them two years later. Philip Rice, who studied under the brilliant conductor Robert Shaw, works magic with this choir, which handles Brubeck's demanding works in a mostly a cappella setting. Accompanists Jim Wilson ("Psalm 30") and Terry Sanford (heard on "Allelulia") play all the written passages at the composer's request; Brubeck's instrumental role is strictly as a soloist.
Brubeck's swinging polytonal arrangement of the Christmas carol "We Three Kings" will be obvious to anyone familiar with his jazz recordings. "Though I Speak With the Tongues of Men and of Angels" is from Brubeck's oratorio "The Voice of the Holy Spirit," and the choir's performance is nothing less than stunning. A brief chorale introduces his "Power Chorale and Fugue," followed by Brubeck's dramatic piano improvisation, segueing into an intricate a cappella fugue.
"Yes, We All Have Our Cross to Bear" is a moving work heard in two separate recordings, one straight-ahead, the other in a swing interpretation, though both versions were incorporated into the composer's original conception. "Alleluia," from Brubeck's Roman Catholic Mass "To Hope! A Celebration", tests the skills of the choir and especially accompanist Sanford; both pass with flying colors. The haunting "Regret" was initially scored for strings, but this adaptation for a cappella choir, which sings only the word "regret" along with open vowels, is every bit as powerful. "Psalm 30" is a joyful celebration of the composer's faith, with accompanist Wilson playing the written score and Brubeck taking over midway for yet another brilliant improvisation. This CD is available exclusively through www.choralartsofchattanooga.org.