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Summer Night by Philip Catherine

There was an historic opportunity in 1970 of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis recording together. This was on the verge of happening but Hendrix died that year in London. And Davis pressed on becoming more influenced by the unflappable funk of Sly Stone. On Philip Catherine’s first track of his recent album, "Summer Night," he demonstrates the mythical what might have been. On ‘Tiger Groove,’ Catherine’s guitar is simply blistering and flamboyant as Hendrix. He’s blindingly electric and aggressive. It leaves no room for second thoughts; it is sharp and ecstatic. Bert Joris plays the Davis role. It juxtaposes Catherine’s extroversion with Joris’ subtle and nimble execution. This is a glimpse to what the fusion might have been.

Catherine’s approach can also be reminiscent of John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell as demonstrated on driving ‘Francis’ Groove.’ But he also shows deeper swing roots of Reinhardt and Grappelli. It is no wonder that upon hearing Catherine’s sharp-edged playing, Charles Mingus christened him as the "Young Django." Indeed, Catherine performs the Monk signature piece, ‘Round Midnight’ with Reinhardt-like flair and delicacy. It is a compelling take, and it feels like an introspective stroll through Place de Bastille on a sultry midsummer’s evening. The Bastille is bright with outdoor cafes still serving salad and wine at midnight, but eventually the walk ends along the Seine that has become lonelier and filled with shadows.

Dedicated to his daughter, ‘Janet’ is playful as a tot stumbling her way across the living room floor. It is affectionate and sweet. There is joy and delight. But the prelude entitled ‘Birth of Janet’ is something altogether different. It is slow, dramatic and uncertain. It is eerie and almost dangerous. A difficult journey.

‘Letter From My Mother’ is a rich poem. It is perhaps the most like Reinhardt. It sounds like a piece from a bygone era. It feels like as though it tries to remain jaunty though there is underlying distress. Nevertheless, these contradictions remain sweetly nostalgic. The playing back and forth between Catherine and Joris is superb.

The coda to "Summer Night" is the masterful ‘Gilles et Mirona.’ It is a lovely way to end a gorgeous album that takes one places and through a range of emotions. "Summer Night" is extraordinary.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Philip Catherine
  • CD Title: Summer Night
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Disques Dreyfus (Koch Entertainment)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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