Guitarist, Phillip Catherine, performed tonight at the Berrigen Cultural Center, along with Bert van den Brink, piano, Bas Kooimans, double bass, and Hans van Oosterhout, drums, at a concert sponsored by Motives for Jazz, a major jazz promoter here in Belgium.
With the duet of Linx-Wissels opening the concert and Aka Moon following, the Philip Catherine Quartet stole the evening, no contest. Philip's melodic style and superb artistry was well founded with the rest of the quartet and they repeatedly wowed the audience with a variety of selections.
The first set started off with a song entitled, Blue Bells, a piece Philip said, "I hope you enjoy, but if not (silence)!" The audience laughed. The song had a real hook to it and I swear I caught a whiff of incense. Don´t ask me why. Another song dedicated to a personal friend of Philip's, Good Morning, Bill, was soft and built to a bridge which reminded me of a Michel Petrucciani styling with fantastic changes that carried you along to the end. I Fall In Love Too Easily was one of their best arrangements beginning slowly traditional and flowing into a nice ´50´s improvisational swing with shades of Bill Evans from Bert van den Brink, and crystal chords from Philip. While I am always blown away by the superior diverse creativity by drummer, Hans van Oosterhout, (more about him later), Bas Kooimans, substituting for the usual Hein van de Geyn on double bass, performed some tasty solos throughout the performance.
A very avant-garde Piano Groove highlighted Bert van den Brink´s amazing talent. Bert is blind of sight, but gifted with a vision far beyond the limits of the physical. He is extremely popular in Europe and has showcased his talent with the greats at the North Sea Jazz Fest. His style is phenomenal and he may be heard on many CDs including, Toots Thielemans' Chez Toots. Even more memorable is his piano contribution to Philip's signature piece, Dance For Victor, written and dedicated to the infamous Victor Feldman. Of course, the quartet also performed Dance For Victor along with other forms during the second set and concluded the evening to a standing ovation.
So, to the lounge where over Irish coffee, or should I say Belgian coffee with Irish whiskey, we all sat and raved about the evenings events. As an American living in Europe, it is a learning experience listening to the many outstanding jazz musicians popular here, some who unfortunately are not in the fore front of recognition with jazz enthusiasts in the U.S. Sometimes it is difficult to find any kind of background information on these artists unless one is fortunate enough to obtain a personal interview. Philip Catherine is however, well established and thus his reputation proceeds him. To the novice, I have included the following information:
Born in London of an English mother and Belgian father, Phillip Catherine came from a musical family where his grandfather was first violin with the London Symphony Orchestra. He was initially inspired by Django Reinhardt and Rene Thomas and began his professional career at the age of seventeen often accompanying the great jazzmen of that time in Brussels. He studied at the University of Luvain and after finishing his military service, joined the Jean-Luc Ponty Quintet for two years in the early seventies. It is said he blended well with Stephane Grapelli, Ponty and Lockwood and had a special relationship with all three. He traveled to America and studied at the Berklee School in Boston, afterward returning to Europe in ´75 where he formed his own group, Pork Pie, with Charlie Mariano and Jasper van´t Hof. He produced his first two albums shortly thereafter, September Man and Guitars in 1975 and ´76. In 1976, Phillip played a spontaneous duo with Larry Coryell at the Berlin Jazz festival and Europe stood up and took note. This led to Phillip and Larry recording together and playing major festivals in Montreux, Newport and throughout the world. Not only did Phillip play with Charles Mingus, but Mingus nicknamed him the "Young Django" and Philip produced an album of the same name with Stephen Grappelli in 1979.
He is highly regarded in Europe and has played in the most prestigious concert halls from the Berlin Philharmonic to Carnegie Hall, but says he prefers playing in Europe´s warm jazz clubs because of the one-on-one relationship with the audience. I can attest to that! And, in addition to the many awards he has received throughout his career such as "Artist of the Year," (´78 Deutsche Phono Akademie) for his duo recordings with Larry Coryell, the "Saxe" prize in ´88 unanimously awarded by the "Association Belge de Criques de Jazz," for his album Transparence, in 1990 he was given the most prestigious "BIRD" award, together with Stan Getz, at the North Sea Jazz Festival.
Since the early nineties, Philip´s association with many jazz giants such as Charlie Mingus, Benny Goodman, Toots Thielemans, Stephane Grappelli, Dexter Gordon and Chet Baker have highlighted his press reviews, skyrocketing him as one of the legendary guitarists of his time.
His trio association in the early nineties with Hein Van de Geyn and Tom Harrell, gave rise to three albums, I Remember You and Moods Volume One and Two. His latest trio with Philippe Aerts, bass and Bert Joris, trumpet is acclaimed and a new Pork Pie album has been recorded with Don Alias on drums. Philip Catherine is assuredly a master at the guitar and his career is in full swing.
Onto a bit about drummer, Hans van Oosterhout. I have seen Hans on several occasions and each time, he absolutely blows me away. I believe that most jazz fans go to see a performance of a particular group and the drummer is usually just part of the scene. Hans is a whole different ball game. If it were possible, and it is, Hans makes his drums sing. He is the most creative and talented drummer I have ever heard. It is always a thrill to watch him perform for his technic and ability to go far beyond the expected, with the most unique set of rhythms and impeccable timing is unique.
Hans was born in the Netherlands in 1965. He started playing drums at age 7 and after finishing high school, he was immediately admitted to the jazz department at the Rotterdam conservatory. Before completing his studies, he was hired as the drum teacher. It is no wonder! Over the past several years, Hans has gained a solid reputation and is one of the most sought after drummers in his country and abroad. He has performed with Toots Thielemans, Stacy Rowles, Joe Pass, Spike Robinson, Bobby Watson, Bob Mintzer and Miroslave Vitous. For a number of years, he was a member of the Jack Van Poll Trio and currently is the drummer for the Paul Hock Quartet, the Rob van Bavel Trio, Peter Guidi Quartet, Mike Del Ferro band, Ronald Douglas Quartet, Enrico Pieranunzi, Lee Lonitz, the Riccardo Del Fra Chet Baker Project, the Hein van de Geyn Quartet and the fusion group Target. He is also associated with many Belgian musicians: Toots Thielemans, Nathalie Loriers, Diederik Wissels, David Linx, Michel Herr, etc. He has toured throughout Europe, South Africa, China and the U.S. and played for Helen Merrill at the North Sea Jazz Fest this year. In the Belgian jazz referendum organized by many Belgian radio stations, Hans was elected the best European drummer of 1998. I have only one question. When does he sleep?
Jazz is definitely thriving, not just in Belgium, but throughout most of Europe. It is performances such as this evening and the undeniable talent seen throughout the year at cozy little jazz clubs, major festivals, and organizations such as Motives For Jazz that keep it alive.
Bibliography: Han van Oosterhout, jazzinbelgium.arc.be, 1999