The Cats are John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, and Idrees Sulieman, heavyweights that clearly mark this as a Prestige All-Stars blowing session. However, this 1957 recording is actually a showcase for Flanagan, a rising star in his first major role. None of the tunes are all that challenging, following basic blues formulas that befit the nature of the session, which was probably quickly organized and recorded. But as you might expect this gives the players plenty of opportunities to wail.
Coltrane demonstrates that he would soon be exploring more harmonically advanced territories than the others, tearing through rapid-fire solos with no trouble whatsoever. Burrell takes a more laid-back approach, stringing together bluesy licks in a relaxed fashion. If there's a weak link here, it's Sulieman, who despite a few nice solos seems tentative in spots and a little directionless in others.
But fortunately this is Flanagan's session, a gifted sideman who provides the right support to make sure that everyone stays on course. Along with the sextet tunes, a trio recording of "How Long Has This Been Going On?" proves that Flanagan was capable of handling the spotlight on his own. The slow, graceful rendering of the standard proves that the pianists had plenty of originality and taste and is the only track on the album that stands out.
The Cats isn't the best recording by any of these musicians, who recorded in various combinations elsewhere (the later Kenny Burrell with John Coltrane , which also features Flanagan, is an essential purchase), but nevertheless The Cats is a solid album with plenty of tasty playing.
Track Listing: 1. Minor Mishap 2. How Long Has This Been Going On? 3. Eclypso 4. Solacium 5. Tommy's Tune.
Personnel: Tommy Flanagan - piano; John Coltrane - tenor sax; Idrees Sulieman - trumpet; Kenny Burrell - guitar; Doug Watkins - bass; Louis Hayes - drums.