Philip Catherine has been on the forefront of the European jazz scene since the sixties. He’s worked with great artists like Chet Baker, Larry Coryell, Tom Harrell, NHOP, Stephane Grappelli and Charles Mingus. His unique approach and sound, as well as his dedication to music have been important and influential.
Philip Catherine was born in London in 1942. Being from a musical family (his grandfather was first violin with the London Symphony Orchestra), he developed a musical ear from an early age. He took up the guitar after having discovered Brassens and Django Reinhardt, and started listening to all the great jazzmen of the period. Very soon he had the opportunity to meet some of them, and often accompanied them when they played in Belgium where his family had moved to by then.
At the age of 18 he toured Europe with Lou Bennett and in 1971 Jean-Luc Ponty asked him to join his quintet. In 1971 he made his first record under his name, Stream, followed in 1974-75 by September Man and Guitars. Jazz amateurs the world over discovered not only a brilliant guitarist, but also a talented composer - themes like “Homecomings” and “Nairam” have become famous.
He has played in the most prestigious concert halls, from the Berlin Philharmonic to the Carnegie Hall, from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam to the Olympia and Salle Pleyel in Paris and the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Brussels, but still loves to play in jazz clubs from time to time, because of the direct communication with the audience.
Philip Catherine has received many awards, among others the “BIRD” Prize (‘90), together with Stan Getz, at the North Sea Festival, the “Django D’Or” (‘98) in Paris for ‘Best European Jazz Artist’, the ZAMU ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ (2001) and ‘Best Musician’ (2002).
In 2002 he received the title “Maestro Honoris Causa” from the Antwerp Conservatory (title which has been given previous years to reputed artists like Jos van Immerseel, Sigiswald Kuijken and Toots Thielemans).
In 1997 Philip Catherine signed with Dreyfus Records. His first album on this label - simply called “Live” (being the very first live recording of his career) has been highly acclaimed by the international press (4½-star in Down Beat, “best album of the year” in Jazz Nu; etc..).
It was followed in ‘98 by Guitar Groove (with Jim Beard on piano and keyboards, Alphonso Johnson on bass and Rodney Holmes on drums), which features twelve superb compositions by Philip and a beautiful rendering of “Stardust”. The album got impressive radio airplay in the US and - very exceptional for a European Jazz CD - it broke the top 20 of the Gavin Jazz Chart where it stayed for several months.
Blue Prince (2000) received very enthusiastic acclaim from the press: “Record of the Year”, in JazzMan and was selected among best album of the year in many magazines and newspapers.
Summer Night (Dreyfus, 2002) - in trio/quartet with Philippe Aerts on bass, Joost van Schaik on drums, and Bert Joris on trumpet - contains six new compositions, a beautiful re-take of “Janet” and six standards. It shows again that Philip Catherine may be counted among the great jazz artists of our time.
The success of his appearances with some leading European big bands, and in recent years also more frequently with chamber orchestra’s, have revealed that his lyrical compositions are particularly appropriate for arrangements for larger ensembles.
This lead to the collaboration with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra (BJO), and in April 2005 Philip Catherine’ album Meeting Colours (Dreyfus) was released, with superb arrangements of his music for guitar and big band by trumpet player/arranger Bert Joris. Recorded in January together with the BJO, who are the favorite band of great musicians like Kenny Werner, Maria Schneider and who were the first European band to be elected in the 2004 Downbeat Critics’ Poll.
In 2006 Philip Catherine participated on the album Passage of the group Soledad, dedicated to the music of composer Frederic Devreese (among others famous for his filmscores for Andre Delvaux, Hankar, etc.) and released on EMI/Virgin Classics, which received great acclaim in the press.
That same year he also gave some concerts in duo with the French guitarist Sylvain Luc. It turned out to be a magic encounter and the two artists decided to work together on a regular basis.
Philip Catherine’s regular touring band remains his Trio which is very much appreciated by any kind of public (the jazz fans, the young ‘standing audiences’, the more classical public, etc..), a formula he particularly likes as it gives him the rhythmic support as well as freedom to unfold his wide palette of musical styles – from that irresistible groovy rock sound to the broad lyrical phrases of which he is a master.
In 2007, parallel to his tours with his trio, quartet and collaborations with Soledad, Sylvain Luc, symphonic orchestras, etcetera, Philip Catherine prepared a new guitar solo program. The beauty of his compositions really stands out in these arrangements. Philip, surrounded by his guitars and his pedal-rack, fascinates his audience and gets great response.
Guitars Two (2008), the first solo album of his career, was released in 2008 on Dreyfus Jazz and is hailed in the international press as one of his best albums.
In April 2010 a new album, Live at Cap Breton, will be released on Dreyfus Jazz of an exceptional concert together with an all-star line-up - Enrico Pieranunzi (p), Hein Van de Geyn (b), Joe LaBarbera (dr).
Catherine releases his touching vision of Cole Porter on Plays Cole Porter (2011). Referencing traditional markers from Reinhardt to Wes Montgomery, he sounds like nobody but himself.
John Kelman of Allaboutjazz shares . . . “the beauty of a wonderful and seasoned musician like Philip is the fact that anything he plays will have a strong flavor and character. Philip’s unique sound is always recognizable, deeply expressive and so very personal. By surrendering to the tune, by simply trying to give the honest rendition of these timeless songs, Philip proved himself to be a great singer. For me making this album was a wonderful experience.”