Paul Quinichette (tenor sax) -- whose style was so similar to that of Lester Young that he was nicknamed "Prez Jr." -- heads up two different combos on Cattin'. The bulk of the outing features Quinichette and his Prestige Records labelmate John Coltrane (tenor sax) co-leading a quintet that also includes Mal Waldron (piano), Julian Euell (bass), and Ed Thigpen (drums). There is one caveat, a version of "Tea for Two," which will be discussed more in a moment.
"Cattin'" is a sly and bluesy tune written by Waldron. He takes the first verse while establishing the refined melody. As guest of honor, Coltrane supersedes the host with a foundation of imaginative, well-proportioned 12-bar blues lines. Quinichette continues with his own soulful interpretation of ultra-cool bop. While disparate in their respective approaches, Coltrane and Quinichette reveal an unquestionably unified camaraderie that could perhaps best be predicted by the seamless amalgamation of styles that bookend "Cattin'." What follows is a perfect example of why Quinichette has borne the comparison to Lester Young. "Sunday" -- which, coincidentally or not, was one of the senior Prez's signature tunes -- becomes a springboard for both players to adapt and be influenced by their counterpart. While not a direct call-and-response type of dialogue, Quinichette and Coltrane take each other to task by rising to the auspicious occasion with undeniably tasty interactions. Coltrane sits out "Exactly Like You," giving Quinichette and crew the chance to delve into a decidedly lyrical exploration that goes even further in revealing the divergence in their techniques and delivery. Particularly worthwhile are the emphatic statements Quinichette makes during the waning moments of the final chorus.
"Anatomy" is a Waldron piece that could well have been penned specifically with Coltrane in mind. This is the second time in as many years that the song was recorded by Coltrane. Here he actually kicks things up a notch by prudently leaving room for Quinichette and even Waldron, whose phrasing remains sensitive to the tight and compact backbeat. "Vodka" offers a chance to experience Quinichette and Coltrane in unison. They produce a sound that is greater than the equal sum of its individual parts and it could be considered a zenith of their entire collaborative efforts. In fact, their harmonics and presumably the acoustic properties of the recording facility make the pair unleash overtones that suggest a third sax is present. Otherwise, what begins with short and compact bursts evolve into Coltrane developing a few nice thematic deviations.
As mentioned above, "Tea for Two" comes from an entirely different session with Quinichette, Freddie Green (guitar), Kenny Drew (piano), Gene Ramsey (bass), and Gus Johnson (drums). Again, comparisons to Lester Young are almost obligatory. Quinichette is loose and limber as he unravels a warm tone against the propelling Latin backbeat.