Jerry Outlaw & David Pate: The Crux of the Biscuit
Two finely-tuned athletes — a jiu-jitsu devotee and a cycling enthusiast — combined talents on Saturday, September 3, at Studio Grand Central in St. Petersburg for Artful Noises & Lovely Notes.
The talents on display demonstrated these athletes’ diverse abilities: Jerry Outlaw is an extraordinary guitarist, and David Pate is, by Outlaw’s measure, “the finest saxophonist on this small planet [Ed. note: no argument here]. He is my friend, my bandmate, my teacher, and my musical hero. We are going to make music (very strange music) out of thin air. 8pm, two 45 minute sets. Let’s see and hear what happens.”
And these two athletes did precisely that! If the names are unfamiliar, know that Outlaw is a Hendrix fan, metal beast, member of Jon Oliva’s Pain and of The Hubbtones, and — most prominently — the founder and frontman for the world-renowned Frank Zappa tribute band Bogus Pomp. Pate is a spectacular jazz player who has performed over the years with Majid Shabazz and countless touring Broadway shows, is a member of the brilliant Michael Ross Quartet, and is also a founding member of Bogus Pomp.
Apparently, these two finely-tuned athletes had met under similar circumstances before, but this was their first duet in a long time. Outlaw had his electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, an electric bass, and a little device with a huge sound we all learned about called an Ebow. Pate brought his flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, and bass clarinet. The event space was intimate and magical — just 43 seats, and TOO MANY OF THEM EMPTY! Bogus Pomp fans: you missed it. If they ever repeat this glorious event, RUN don’t WALK to your nearest ticket outlet.
These two gentlemen have played together in one format or another hundreds of times, but Pate still wanted to have a couple practices, just to get a general idea of what they would do. They had one practice: “30 minutes, and then we went out for hot dogs,” Pate observed. They didn’t need to practice.
SETLIST? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ SETLIST!
They built each sound structure in real time, mostly as a duet, sometimes one sitting out to let the other step up. Outlaw began on electric guitar, very minimalist, regularly employing the whammy bar and volume knob, playing chords. Pate’s ethereal flute recalled falling leaves as Outlaw settled on a repetitive figure. As Pate reached for the soprano, Outlaw’s fingers slid up and down the strings on the neck of the guitar, that sound reverberating throughout the tiny space.
Pate suddenly skyrocketed on soprano, a stunning tour de force. If you are familiar with the concept of cyclical breathing, then you know that a reeds or brass player can solo seemingly without taking a breath; they are in fact breathing in through the nose and simultaneously blowing out. Pate’s solo was several minutes long and brilliant in conception. As Outlaw grabbed the acoustic guitar, he turned to look at all of us and smiled. DAMN! Outlaw then rocked out — on acoustic — channeling that “Third Stone from the Sun/Hey Jude” vibe as Pate laid out.
Before we get to the next section, here’s what I learned online about the device Outlaw was about to use, with stunning effectiveness:
The EBow is a hand-held electronic bow for guitar. This small battery-powered unit replaces the pick in the right hand letting the guitarist mimic strings, horns, and woodwinds with unbelievable sensitivity. The Ebow produces a powerful infinite sustain, rich in harmonics for incredible guitar sounds. Unlike plug-in effects, the Energy Bow does its work on the string itself.
Pate re-entered the conversation on soprano, and Outlaw grabbed the electric again. Pate was muting his playing by placing the bell of the soprano on his crossed leg while Outlaw’s guitar sounds emanated from where the strings connect at the bass. Suddenly there was a motorcycle revving in the room: the Ebow garnered all the attention as we learned about just a few of the things it could do.
Outlaw put the Bow down, and Pate picked the tenor up, and a new groove poured out. Pate’s cyclical breathing was again on display (“I took a nasal decongestant before the show so I could do that”). Then the two locked horns — figuratively/literally — for an astounding section, before Pate reached again for his flute. Outlaw was shredding now, and Pate switched again to soprano as industrial guitar met machine-gun soprano runs, and set one was done.
After a short interval, the two returned, this time with Outlaw on electric bass and Pate on bass clarinet (what a magical instrument!). Outlaw used a violin bow first, then the Ebow (!!) for some fine feedback and artful noises, Pate all the while with those magnificent low tones. Note how Pate used his flute case to prop up the bell of the bass clarinet.
About ten minutes in, Pate traded for tenor and Outlaw for electric guitar, and Pate blew the lid off, again, employing cyclical breathing. It’s just so damn impressive.
Outlaw launched a frantic offensive on guitar which gradually eased up. When Pate jumped back in on soprano, his playing was percussive, rhythmic. As they settled into the jam, guitar mimicked soprano in a pastoral groove. Outlaw teased a Zappa riff from the song “Zoot Allures,” Pate then on tenor, more guitar, more tenor, and galloping guitar… and the evening was complete.
Stunning. Magical. Heavenly. Personal. Brilliant.
Thank you, Jerry Outlaw and David Pate. Thank you, too, Carol Gallagher, aka Downtown Carol, for your superb photographs and videos lovingly capturing the magic. Thank you also to the kind people at Studio Grand Central for hosting this event. Finally, thank you to all of the patrons who knew this would be a night to remember. Also enjoy this video montage from Leo Binetti.
Here is a gallery of more from Gallagher (about a third of the shots she took). Find much more on her Facebook page DOWNTOWN CAROLS PHOTOGRAPHY BY CAROL GALLAGHER.