Philip Catherine – Summer Night

Summer Night
Philip Catherine
(Dreyfus – 2002)
by John Barrett

Recorded and mixed in five days, this album sets the guitarist’s broad style against the calm trumpet of Bert Joris. (They last played together on the Blue Prince album, from 2001.) Catherine loves the waltz, and does many things with it: “Tiger Groove” pounces on the one-beat, with a greasy blues tone. The bass is firm, Joris is smooth … and the guitar runs wild, twanging with a mighty buzz. (The double-time bits are in 4/4, which gives it an extra kick.)

“Letter from My Mother” is a different flavor of waltz: Philip marks the time and Bert murmurs with a mute. Sad and warm, he sounds like Miles, with a little more bite to his notes. Catherine comes in like a mist: long ringing notes, a soft touch, and judicious use of chords. When Joris creeps into this solo, chirping so slightly, the sound is pure magic.

“Francis’ Delight” takes it fast with distortion and Pat Martino-like runs. (The bass pattern reminds me of Martino’s classic “El Hombre”.) “Janet”, in a busy 6/8, is a sea of turbulent strings, with the horn floating gently on top. Bert’s solo has long crisp notes; he stays the same through constant shifts of tempo. “Le Jardin de Madi” is a fragrant place, with sustained notes, a raspy horn, drizzling brushes, and all the time in the world. Philip’s solo has teeth, jangling to emphasize Bert’s solo. This leads to “Gilles et Mirona”, where Catherine is alone and plays two guitars. (He’s sweet on the left speaker, twangy on the right.) Peaceful and sad, the tune does its job with solid musicianship and direct emotion. A more varied album than Blue Prince, this one is better, by practically any standard you could use.

The tunes in common time are far from, showing a broad range of techniques. “Summer Night” switches from sharp strums to piano-like chords, as brushes creep in like dusk. “Birth of Janet” is a Metheny-like soundscape: glassy shimmers rise from the guitar, in duel with the clashing cymbals. Essentially themeless, this is as ethereal as “Janet” herself is adventurous. “Laura” is faster than normal, with zooming chords to give it oomph; “If I Should Lose You” comes as a whisper, with the strings lightly touched and the chords deeply felt. On the second chorus, Philip turns on the juice – we get flashy chords and the tone of a rock star. He works some Wes octaves into “‘Round Midnight”, and “All Through the Day” is a romp for Joris, who scampers among the rippling strings. Though the approaches herein are different, the emotions stay the same: restless, strong, and happy. Listen closely, and feel the warmth of this “Summer”.