Philip Catherine Summer Night Review

BBC Review

...a warm, lyrical album of standards and originals.

Peter Marsh 2002

Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine is a hard one to pin down. Like Larry Coryell, he's had a somewhat chameleonic career which has seen him as prog rock axe hero (with Focus), fusioneer (with Alphonse Mouzon) as well as amainstream jazzer (with Stephane Grappelli and Chet Baker). Though Summer Night leans towards the straightahead, it shows Catherine as a restless, busy player who can flit across stylistic boundaries with consummate ease. Backed by acoustic bass and drums and joined on over half the tracks by trumpeter Bert Joris, the guitarist delivers a satisfying set of originals plus a few standards.

The bluesy "Tiger Groove" kicks things off with a juicy 6/8 bounce, topped off with tricky unison lines for guitar and trumpet. Catherine's fat, overdriven tone coupled with a questing, bop flavoured harmonic approach recalls John Abercrombie's playing on the first Gateway records. Mostly, he opts for a pure, singing tone with a hint of blues bite and sustain, sometimes leaning on his pedals for extra texture (as on the impressionistic "Birth of Janet").

Overdubbing is kept to a minimum, allowingCatherine to display a Joe Pass-like chordal approach to his solos (heard to great effect on the lovely title track). He's a direct, exciting soloist posessed of plenty of fire on the uptempo numbers (check his nibbling, speedy improvisation on "Francis' Delight"), while on the ballads his lines are satisfyingly melodic but incisive. Joris is a fine foil, recalling Catherine's old sparring partner Palle Mikkelborg or (particularly on his mellifluous solo on "Janet"), the cool lyricism of Kenny Wheeler.

The choice of some standards is a bit predictable (apart from the title track); though old chestnuts "Time after Time" and "Laura" are dispatched ably enough, it's questionable whether the world is in dire need of another version of "Round Midnight". Here the atmosphere is more that of a relaxed blowing session, pleasurable enough but slightly anonymous.

Catherine is a fine composer (his "Nairam" remains one of the great lost standards) with a gift for lucid melodies, best heard on "Letter from my Mother" and the delicate "Gilles et Mirana" for two guitars. Fine though the other players are, it'd be nice to hear Catherine do a whole album of this kind of thing. A valuable talent...good to know he's still out there.

Like This? Try These:
Pat Metheny - Speaking of Now
George Benson - Beyond the Blue Horizon
John Abercrombie - Cat 'n' Mouse

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