Hailing from Uptown New Orleans, the Brotherhood of Groove collective has taken the heat of the Bayou out on the road. Midway thru a sweaty summer tour B.O.G. has been torching the West with a revamped lineup, and is releasing a blazing hot new record BOG Style. The first leg of the summer run, a Northwestern swing through mountain towns and West Coast cities, has been scorching jazz and jam fans alike. The updated BOG is oiled and running smoothly on all crunk cylinders.
The brainchild of guitarist/singer Brandon Tarricone, B.O.G. has assembled a great group of players that really communicate the vibe and energy of the material that he writes and arranges. The band, which formed in 2001 as Tarricone was studying jazz at Loyola University, is all things funky, New Orleans, “get up offa that thang” fun, and the new record exudes a newfound maturity, full of chops from some of today’s heaviest hitters across the nation.
“I started the BOG here in New Orleans in 2001,” says Tarricone. “I wrote about ten tunes in that first year and we went into the studio for the first album. It was a little more jazzy since I was just finishing my degree in jazz at Loyola, where I studied with all kinds of heavy cats like Johnny V (Vidacovich).”
BOG, in its infancy, developed a penchant for relentless touring, sometimes approaching 100 shows in a calendar year. As the reputation grew, so did the writing, and in turn, the playing. Tarricone was constantly toying with the lineup, tweaking it to his satisfaction as the material became more engaging. Brandon encountered more and more styles and situations that he could adapt to his BOG project.
“We started touring heavily for the next two years, and I changed the lineup quite often. Everyone we have had in the band has been a solid player, but as I move on and organize more cats into the Brotherhood of Groove, our shit just keeps getting deeper and deeper. On this last tour we did we had many people tell us every night that we were the best band that had come through town that whole year.”
While having a blast on tour, Tarricone began to look at his art differently, and in turn began to hear it differently as well. This called for new material, new cats to play it, and maybe somebody else’s ideas mixed into the stew, in terms of arranging and producing as well as playing and writing.
“As we toured heavier and heavier I started writing more, and different types of tunes as well. I started writing rock tunes, and New Orleans street beat tunes, straight funk tunes, acoustic tunes, etc… I have had all of these different influences in my life, and they have started to really come out in my writing. For example in the past I have seen a lot of Phish shows–that has influenced me, but then two weeks later I might be second lining in a new Orleans parade for two weeks of Mardi Gras, and that has influenced me. I also have studied Scofield‘s style, and Grant Green’s style, and Trey‘s style, and all of these other cats pretty closely, so that has been a big influence in my writing and playing.”
Touring as an acoustic folk duo (Front Porch) during some BOG downtime last winter certainly opened Tarricone’s eyes and ears to different aspects of performing, listening, and most importantly, singing. Lead vocals were uncharted territory for the most part–when it comes to the Brotherhood blueprint, Brandon has really stepped up his throat game on the new record and recent tour.
“Part of me really wants to display the Axl Rose/Robert Plant/Frank Sinatra showmanship vibe that only a true front man can bring. It brings a level of excitement and sensuality to the material,” adds Tarricone.
Tarricone decided that after the most successful and fulfilling tour of their short career, he should bring this lineup into the studio over Jazzfest to capture the vibe and lay down these newer tracks. The recording of BOG Style was truly a learning experience for the bandleader, and a huge jump forward for the project. He found a producer and collaborator (Jeff Watkins) with whom he has developed a wonderful working relationship, as well as solidified the new B.O.G. lineup. He also lured many jam and jazz stars to come contribute to the new record.
“The Brotherhood of Groove is constantly retooling, as the music develops and more and more great musicians get involved. Part of the whole idea behind the Brotherhood is that it is an ever-developing group, which will bring in heavier and heavier cats to play the music, as I write and develop it. The band rehearses a lot, with whatever the lineup is, so that tours are always super tight, horn sections are amazingly precise, and the rhythm section has huge groove pocket,” he explains.
Besides bandleader, composer, arranger, guitarist, and vocalist Brandon “Marlin Brando” Tarricone, the group’s main collaborator is saxophonist Jeff Watkins (James Brown Band, 15 years). Watkins produced the BOG Style sessions with Tarricone, and also played sax on four tunes. He tours with B.O.G. frequently and has helped get the horn arrangements even tighter than the James Brown Band (so he says!).
“I had just moved to New Orleans, and was psyched up about the wealth of talent to discover and work with,” recounts Watkins. “My friend Rod Glaubman met Brandon while I was on tour with JB, and played me B.O.G.’s first project. I was impressed with the writing and playing, and was looking forward to hearing them live. I felt that my production style might help them achieve their potential.”
The connection between these motivated mavens was instantly established; their creativity, productivity, technology, and “BroGroove Smoove” vibes escalated the studio sessions to mammoth proportions. The music mirrored the recording process: cutting edge and full of innovations. Watkins was the glue, the missing piece, and the creative and technological force that propelled the Brotherhood into new stratospheres, in the studio and subsequently on stage.
“We did this with the ultimate combination of old school and new–tracking to Pro Tools using all real instruments like B3’s, clavinets, horn sections, etc. and mixing to tape,” says Watkins. “‘Clinically organic,’ you might say. The songs cover a lot of ground, each song has it’s own bag. B.O.G. is a first class operation, I’m very proud of the project and am looking forward to doing more like this one!”
Other B.O.G. mainstays include NOLA local madmen John Massing (Brian Stoltz Band), B.O.G.’s full time drummer and backup vocalist, who arranged all percussion sections on album. Stewart Mckinsey plays eight-string basses, both fretted and fretless. Massing is one mean mutha struttin’ up Crescent City streets deep in the second line pocket.