Fil Pate & Friends: Fusion Fridays at The Ale & the Witch

As we work to shake free — slowly — from the grip of the pandemic, we are most grateful for venues where we can hear live music. One of the best is the outdoor pavilion where music flows in St. Petersburg while the beer flows from inside The Ale and the Witch. Brett Andress has worked hard to bring live music back on the calendar, and the schedule is filling up.

The fourth Friday of the month has been dubbed Fusion Friday featuring Friends of Fil, honoring the tradition of the organ trio — organ, guitar (or saxophone), and drums. Multi-instrumentalist Fil Pate plays guitar in this trio along with Casey Otto on Hammond organ and Albert ‘Newbeat’ Warren on drums. They would have guest trumpeter Fredy Garcia up several times during their two-hour set.

Friends of Fil. 📷: Scott Hopkins

Dillon Reeder was in the house as sound engineer (and lights!), so the sound was, of course, impeccable.

Pate, Otto, and drummer Leo Suarez recorded a fine organ trio album at The Springs Theatre in Tampa in July of 2015. The CD, Soul Stew, was issued in 2016, and the trio on Friday, April 23, played several tracks from that album, some excellent jazz standards, and a pair of new tunes as well.

Casey Otto – Friends of Fil. 📷: Scott Hopkins

For this show, Otto played the Hammond XK-3C, more portable than the standard Hammond B3, and it sounded great run through the ubiquitous Leslie cabinet.

The soundcheck was excellent, a clear indication of a great set to come. They swung immediately into “Little Walter Rides Again,” a Medeski, Martin & Wood composition. As was the case on almost every song, each player had the chance to stretch out. Often Pate and Otto traded back and forth, and they left plenty of space for Warren’s creative tendencies.

Otto stepped out first on Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue,” which they took at the proper leisurely pace, stretching out the glory of the song. Otto was a treat to watch as his hands danced over the keyboards. Pate’s solo was packed with great ideas.

The trio downshifted — briefly — on “High and Lonesome,” a fine Steve Kimock tune. It began as a soft ballad, but not long into the song Warren kicked them up a couple of gears, Pate honoring the great Kimock. “Brown Paper Bag” is an Otto composition from Soul Stew, and it got fine treatment.

Pate had intimated that there was a trumpeter in the house, and he introduced us to Fredy Garcia, who came up to share in the magic of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia.” Garcia soloed first, then Pate, followed by Otto, with some great interplay after that.

Fredy Garcia w/ Friends of Fil. 📷: Scott Hopkins

If there was a peak to the set, it came on a Pate tune titled “Techno Finger-Pick.” This was fabulous, reminiscent of those great George Benson CTI recordings such as “California Dreaming.” Pate was flying, and Warren kept pushing the pace; his smile as he played was absolutely infectious. Interestingly, Warren was playing with a jazz grip, as opposed to a rock grip, although he switched later in the set.

Next up was “Tenor Madness” (Sonny Rollins), with more fine solos, and then Garcia returned for Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay.” Garcia again showed some nice improvisation, and Pate bent some cool strings here. They went newer-school next with a cover of The New Mastersounds’ “MRG,” going it justice.

The trio then strung together two tracks from Soul Stew, “Half Hop > Whatchu Kno Bout Da Groove?” It began with a rocker and segued to an almost country-western feel, very cool. Garcia came up one more time for the Duke Ellington masterpiece “Caravan,” again biting around the edges of the song very effectively. Pate, Otto, and Warren all had their say as well.

Fredy Garcia – Friends of Fil. 📷: Scott Hopkins

With time for one more song, they dug into a new Pate song called “GNF.” It had a jazzy grateful Dead approach and then switched to almost reggae. That capped off a fine Friday night of music at The Ale and the Witch.

You can find Fil & Friends there again on May 28 and June 25.


One more point to ponder: if you’re going to get a bit sloshy and talk REALLY LOUD, why would you want to sit right up front and center near the band? ANSWER: because I am a magnet, and I attract obnoxious loud talkers who have no respect for musicians. BEST MOMENT: when they left 50 minutes into the set. WORST MOMENT: when they returned with ten minutes left. **SIGH**


Casey Otto – Friends of Fil. 📷: Scott Hopkins

[Little Walter Rides Again (Medeski, Martin & Wood), Afro Blue (Mongo Santamaria), High & Lonesome (Steve Kimock), Brown Paper Bag, Night in Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie), Techno Finger-Pick, Tenor Madness (Sonny Rollins), Red Clay (Freddie Hubbard), MRG , Half Hop > Whatchu Kno Bout Da Groove?, Caravan (Ellington, Mills & Tizol), GNF]

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