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Guitarist Philip Catherine and Pianist Fulco Ottervanger: Two Generations of Fine Euro Jazz

Bruno Bollaert
Philip Catherine Performing at Jazz Middelheim in Antwerp, Belgium

All too often, great jazz talent overseas goes underappreciated in the United States. The Checkout spotlights two such figures: guitarist Philip Catherine, a legendary guitarist who once collaborated with Chet Baker and Dexter Gordon; and pianist Fulco Ottervanger, an exciting up-and-comer now making waves. I spoke with both artists onstage at Jazz Middelheim, a summer festival in Antwerp, Belgium.

Catherine, born in England and based in Brussels, received a lifetime achievement award at Jazz Middelheim. Besides collaborating with many of the music’s all-timers, he has produced 22 outstanding recordings of his own. Some of that music was recently re-issued in the box set Philip Catherine: Selected Works from 1974 to 1982 (Warner Music).

Credit Courtesy of Artist
Philip Catherine Selected Works 1974-1982

We showcase those recordings and speak with the artist about his proudest achievement as a bandleader: September Man, a 1974 Atlantic album featuring saxophonist and flutist Charlie Mariano, pianist Jasper Van’t Hof, bassist John Lee, and drummer Gerry Brown. With the exception of Mariano, who died in 2009, this ensemble reunited onstage at the festival for the first time in more than 40 years.

Catherine discusses his earliest musical influence, the French poet and guitarist Georges Brassens. He also reveals to our live audience how he modeled his inviting guitar sound after lyrical horn players like Clifford Brown and Miles Davis.

Then Ottervanger, the pianist and composer-in-residence of the city of Ghent, joins us for a conversation and performance with his band, De Beren Gieren. He guides us through Dug Out Skyscrapers, a piano trio recording that adopts some experimental techniques.

Credit Bruno Bollaert
Fulco Ottervanger Performs with De Beren Gieren at Jazz Middelheim

Ottervanger places pedals and filters inside his prepared piano to create an otherworldly aesthetic. Those spacey soundscapes are reinforced by heavy, tribal grooves from his bandmates, Lieven Van Pée on bass and Simon Segers on drums.

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Assistant Producers: Anthony Nieves and Sarah Geledi

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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.