Around the World: Belgium’s Philip Catherine

4 Apr

guitar duet album by Larry Coryell and Philip Catherine

Philip Catherine's 1977 album with Larry Coryell: Twin-House

Born in London to a Belgian father and a British mother, guitarist Philip Catherine was raised Belgian and long considered one of the country’s most prominent jazz musicians, even as today it struggles to remain a united country.  

Nestled between France to the south and Holland to the north, and divided between Dutch-speaking Flemish and French-speaking Walloons, the country has been without a government for nearly a year now. Long-term unity isn’t promising.

Of course, Belgium has survived darker days. Catherine was born in the midst of them — in 1942 after his family moved to London during World War II (his grandfather played in the London Symphony Orchestra); they moved back to Belgium after the war. In Belgium, Catherine was compared to another guitarist born in Belgium — the Roma Django Reinhardt, who was one of Catherine’s early influences (French singer George Brassens was first); Charles Mingus called Catherine “young Django.”  Today Catherine is a multiple winner of the Django D’Or award named for Reinhardt.

Wrote Mike Hennessey on the liner notes to the 1977 Catherine/Larry Coryell album Twin-House: “Catherine . . . has long been a major figure on the European scene and is endowed with a technique, imagination and versatility which enable him to feel just as much at home with Focus (one of Catherine’s early groups), as with Peter Herbolzhheimer’s Rhythm Combination & Brass and with Joachim Kuhn.”

Said Catherine on jazztimes.com (link below): “When I had a chance to play with the great American musicians, I always felt comfortable. A big part of inspiration comes from them. What astonishes me is that people will say that I’m so European. What does that mean? It’s so strange. I think, ‘You don’t notice that I’m trying to play American?’ ”

Below is a link to Catherine playing with French guitarist Bireli Lagrene:

More on Catherine

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