Brussels Jazz Festival - Flagey, 13.01
7.15 p.m.: documentary ‘Philip Catherine, de weg naar Helsinki’
8.15 p.m.: Philip Catherine & Strings
Like all great jazz artists before him, guitarist Philip Catherine (°1942) has been crucial in the history of jazz evolution, as evidenced by his encounters and recordings with icons like Dexter Gordon and Stéphane Grapelli. He now in turn works with young talents of the new generation such as Antoine Pierre and Nicolas Andreoli.
Who is… Philip Catherine?
He performs his first jam sessions as a sixteen-year-old lad with no less than Sonny Stitt and Daniel Humair. A few years later, he is already touring with Lou Bennet as opening act for Monk. This marks the start of an impressive career. Over the years, Philip Catherine works with the most prestigious names on the international jazz scene: Jean-Luc Ponty, Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker, Tom Harrell, Ron Carter, Charles Mingus, Benny Goodman and not forgetting of course Toots Thielemans. And the list just keeps growing.
The secret to his success: his broad-ranging view, his very personal guitar wizardry, his impressive sense of melody and lyricism, the clarity of his playing, and last but not least, his surrealistic sense of humour. His latest challenge of many is a concert with his own compositions, performed with his quartet and accompanied by a string orchestra.
… your favourite place in Brussels?
When I was still living in the neighbourhood, I used to take strolls in the nearby Bois de la Cambre. Since I have an apartment here opposite the Brussels-South railway station, I am not going there for walks anymore. I am constantly on tour and as such, I have no other choice but to take into account the practical side of things, that is have something to eat and drink on time and preferably in a familiar setting. So for instance, I am a regular customer at the Greek restaurant Athenes, right around the corner at number 22 rue de l’Argonne. I also often go to a North-African greasy-spoon located somewhere on avenue Fonsny, and which uses a giant bag of chips as outdoor sign. By no means exceptional places but they are dear to my heart. A must-see in the area, from an architectural point of view, is the Art Nouveau brasserie La Porteuse d’Eau (avenue Jean Volders 48, Saint-Gilles) which has kept its original period features intact. I go there for a nice cup of coffee. You can also have a bite to eat there if you feel like it.
… your fondest memory of a concert in Flagey?
So right there off the cuff, I think of a concert by Lionel Loueke several years ago. I was impressed by his consummate musicianship. Also, I was particularly moved by his combination of guitar and singing. Personally, I never sing, although I did when I first started. I must have been fifteen or sixteen years old and I entered a competition organised by Ciné Revue (editor’s note: well-know French-speaking Belgian film magazine) in a Brussels cinema. I interpreted a song by Tommy Steele. That was more or less the last time that I gave it a go. Since then, I try to make my guitar sing.
… the last CD or album you bought for yourself?
‘The Art of the Song’ by the Charlie Haden Quartet West with string ensemble, bought on iTunes. I have just completed a series of gigs with bassist Martin Wind to promote our duo CD ‘New Folks’ and while we were in his car, he put this music on. Also, pianist Jeroen D’Hoe, with whom I recently performed together with Martin Wind and Paul Michiels, mentioned this album. Hence, reasons enough to buy it... all the more so since I am in the middle of my own project with strings.
… your favourite quote of the moment?
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. What I mean by that is that concert organisers do not want to book you unless you come up with a special project. As a result, I have far too few opportunities to perform with my usual quartet. The only way you can evolve with a band, is by playing together as a band regularly. One need look no further than the leading jazz musicians of the past. Back then, there is no way organisers would have ever considered – just to give you an example – asking Miles to show up with a different bassist or proposing Duke Ellington to perform with Scottish bagpipes.