If you have ever been to Stogie’s Cigar Bar on a Friday or Saturday night and just happened upon a performance by The Groove Coalition, chances are you ended up dancing until the bar closed.
From original tunes to rhythm-and-blues, Soul and Neo-Soul covers of musicians like Erykah Badu, Ledisi, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott and Kem, The Groove Coalition is one of St. Augustine’s most irresistible musical outfits. Formed in 2012, The Groove Coalition’s current lineup features Tommy Bridgewater on bass, Howard Green on keyboard, Bryant Wesley on drums, Jim Johnston on guitar, Kent McKinney on percussion and Damien Lamar and Tiffani James-Hewitt sharing vocal duties. Compass caught up with Bridgewater to chat about the band’s background, upcoming album release and what the future holds. Here’s part of that conversation.
Compass: Tell me a bit about how the band came together.
Tommy Bridgewater: It’s a strange story. Initially, I had this idea about forming a coalition of willing musicians who would perform under the same umbrella. Doing this would ensure that there would never be a scheduling conflict. We would rehearse together (sometimes 20 people) and we all knew the same songs. The plan was to never turn down a gig. So on any given Saturday night, the band could be in Jacksonville, St, Augustine, Brunswick, Ponte Vedra and Orange Park. Genius, right? Wrong! The idea was way cooler than the execution. Too many moving parts ruined the concept. One thing we’re known for is the quality of vocal talent that has performed with us. We’ve had many different singers in many different combinations over the past four years. All were extremely talented. We’ve finally found the right combination and we’re a seven-piece band now.
Compass: How has the band grown over the past four years?
T.B.: We have become more intuitive to each other’s musical language. When we’re playing together, we’re having a musical conversation. We feed off of each other’s personality and musicianship. We just know what the other one is saying and we respond appropriately every time. That type of connection only comes with time.
Compass: Tell me about your original songs.
T.B.: We have about 50 original tunes. They range in topics from love, falling in love, falling out of love, family and friends and living a life that’s worth living. That’s nothing new. The thing that’s special about these songs is that they groove really hard. That’s what sets us apart. It’s our signature.
Compass: And you have an album coming out next month, right?
T.B.: Our CD release party is on April 16 at 1904 Music Hall in Jacksonville. The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10. It will be a great night because we have invited all of our former singers (20 plus) to perform with us. They have been so integral to our success, it wouldn’t be right not to celebrate the release of our CD without them. They are still family.
Compass: I’ve seen you perform a few times at Stogie’s. Where else do you play around town?
T.B.: We try to limit the places we play as not to decrease our potency as a live band. People are finicky, “We just saw them last week. Let’s go somewhere else.” However, when you play once a month in a specific venue, people tend to search you out. Word-of-mouth is still the best form of advertisement. I can rant all day about how awesome we are but until your best friend says it, nothing happens. It’s simple supply and demand. I guess what I’m trying to say is, the only place you’ll see us for the time being is Stogie’s. They’ve been extremely good to us. We owe them.
Compass: What would you like the band’s future to look like?
T.B.: As long as we can continue to build our fan base by providing quality entertainment, we’re right where we should be. I can only say that our future is bright. We’re breaking into new markets in South Florida like West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Our CD is sounding really good, too. We also just added another wonderful vocalist named Mia Caines. She’ll help us with our signature harmonies. The future is looking good as long as we keep it groovy. I might buy a new bass. I don’t know.
The Groove Coalition performs at 9 p.m. Saturday at Stogie’s Cigar Bar, 36 Charlotte St. Admission is free.
For information about the band, go to groovecoalition.com.