Bringing in the Sheaves
Brishermax Zh (release date: March 15, 2014)
By Bob Marovich
Organized in 1939, the Zion Harmonizers are something of a New Orleans institution. Not only has the gospel quartet been a staple at the Crescent City’s Jazz & Heritage Festival Gospel Tent, but it was instrumental in founding the Gospel Tent in the first place.
Bringing in the Sheaves, the Zion Harmonizers’ latest CD and a salute to its 75th anniversary, finds the group blending on a mix of hymns, spirituals, and new gospel compositions. Tracks such as “When We All Get to Heaven” and “Anybody Here” demonstrate the quartet’s skill in using vocal dynamics and vamps to arouse an audience or congregation. On the other hand, “Soul of Mine” is slow and mellow, evoking the spirit of the Impressions’ 1958 “For Your Precious Love” but featuring a deep South 1970s quartet vibe.
“Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray” and the socially significant “Free at Last” are sung a cappella. Otherwise, musicians play a major role on the project. Keys, brass, guitar, and drums all complement the singing, and individual musicians even get opportunities to solo (probably a nod to the group’s live appearances).
What’s especially nice to hear is the old-school “boom-de-boom” bass singer. So many groups have jettisoned a bass singer in favor of the bass guitar. This gives added distinction to quartets like the Zion Harmonizers and the Brooklyn All Stars (with Thomas Spann) that have refused to lose their bottom notes. The bass notes, combined with a steady drum backbeat, give the singing added propulsion.
Today, the Zion Harmonizers are led and managed by Brazella Briscoe, who looks to the future by bringing in new members while ensuring that the group never loses its signature sound. On Bringing in the Sheaves, that signature sound is in full supply.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Anybody Here,” “Bringing in the Sheaves.”