Friends of Fil Organ Trio at Dunedin Brewery

Saturday night was slammin’ around the Tampa Bay area, with tons of music and several very special shows. We hadn’t caught up with Friends of Fil in more than a year. That would be Fil Pate, superb mandolin bluegrass player, incredible loop artist, and fine jazz guitarist. Friends of Fil employs the jazz organ trio setup, and once again they delighted.

New mural on the new Moon Tower at Dunedin Brewery

Pate was joined by long-time collaborator Casey Otto, who was itching to take that “new” Hammond B3 organ and Leslie cabinet out for a spin. Those two items were donated to Dunedin Brewery by wonderful music patron Harv Majeski, and this was only its third outing and second at DunBrew. Drummer Albert ‘Newbeat’ Warren has been with them for a couple of years. Their soundcheck was a lovely take on Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father.”

As is my wont, it is necessary to talk about the sound before the music. Sound levels at the brewery are usually spot on. This night, given the thin crowd and the particular clientele (a lot more people near my ancient age), the music was far too loud, unnecessarily. The music was awesome enough all by itself. A number of patrons moved from directly in front of the band. Earplugs FTW, but they shouldn’t have been needed. Stepping off my soap box.

Friends of Fil – 01.28.23

In 2016, Pate and Otto issued Soul Stew, a fine organ trio album. They opened set one with “WCL,” which Pate explained was the short version of “Western Carolina Life”; “where I grew up.” The format for most of the night’s offerings was a solo from Pate, then one from Otto (or reversed), and often a Warren feature. Next up was a tune from the collaboration of Medeski Martin & Wood and John Scofield: “Little Walter Rides Again.” Otto really dug into the New Orleans-style jazz grooves.

Friends of Fil – 01.28.23

“Here is a song new to us but an old one. See if you recognize it,” Pate challenged. Most identified the beautiful melody of Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” right away. This was the first tune where we got to witness the fury of Warren. Dunedin Brewery has hosted lots of powerhouse drummers, thinking right now about Blaque Dynamite, James Adkins, and Nikki Glaspie. Warren certainly made his pitch, all with his indomitable smile.

Friends of Fil – 01.28.23

They tackled a great Otto composition from Soul Stew, “Jungle.” Warren played most of this on the rims, and it was superb. Pate and Otto both soloed before the jam drifted into the Grateful Dead staple “Eyes of the World,” lovingly rendered. The New Mastersounds’ track “MRG” was up next, some great boogaloo jazz. “Pretty Please” was a great song that took a fine Latin detour, more Warren, which segued into “Dodge the Dodo,” a tune penned by Swedish pianist Esbjörn Svenssen, concluding an excellent first set.

Friends of Fil – ‘Soul Stew’ -cover by Stephen Barry

Friends of Fil rocked out to begin set two with “High & Lonesome,” then dialed it back for a nice reading of Roy Hargrove’s “Strasborg St. Denis,” mid-tempo. Warren had his finest straight-up jazz drumming during “Caravan,” the tune made famous by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, penned by the band’s valve trombone player Juan Tizol. Everybody was on fire here!

The group honored the late Dr. Lonnie Smith, one of the kings of the B3, with his composition “Back Track.” I am indebted to archivist Tim Mulaly for capturing this video and the next song as well, “Jan Jan.” This is one of the most-played songs at jazz fusion jams, made famous by guitarist Grant Green on his brilliant Live at the Lighthouse in 1973. The song was written by Mose Davis three years earlier for The Fabulous Counts. The trio crushed it.

Pate referenced Miles Davis before they played “On Green Dolphin Street,” a 1947 song by Bronislaw Kaper which Davis put on the map with his 1957  recording for a French film called Ascenseur pour l’echafaud. Otto looked all set long like he had just found the best toy every, which for a keyboard player is accurate.This was beautiful.

Friends of Fil – 01.28.23

They were down to less than ten minutes before the normal midnight cutoff time. Having peeked at the setlist, I knew they still had “G Jam Blues” and “Turn On Your Lovelight” to go. Not enough time. I speculated they would play the Deadric Malone & Joseph Scott tune Bobby “Blue” Bland made famous. WRONG (sort of)? They chose instead the Barney Bigard & Duke Ellington composition “C Jam Blues,” except in the key of G! Then, in the middle, Pate rolled out a fine “Lovelight” tease. He confided that they also threw in “Sunnymoon for Two” and “Billie’s Bounce.” He noted that, given more time, they usually stuck one or two more in there!

Friends of Fil – 01.28.23

It was a wonderful ending to a wonderful night of music!

[FoF: SET ONE: WCL, Little Later Rides Again, The Wind Cries Mary, Jungle > Eyes of the World, MFG, Pretty Please > Dodge the Dodo; SET TWO: High and Lonesome, Strasborg St. Denis, Caravan, Back Track, Jan Jan, On Green Dolphin Street, G Jam Blues > Turn On Your Lovelight > G Jam Blues]



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