In 1957, the greatest year for recorded music including modern jazz, Detroit was a hot spot, a centerpiece to many hometown heroes as well as short-term residents like John Coltrane and Miles Davis. It was here that Trane connected with pianist Tommy Flanagan, subsequently headed for the East Coast, and recorded this seminal hard bop album. In tow were fellow Detroiters -- drummer Louis Hayes, bassist Doug Watkins, and guitarist Kenny Burrell, with the fine trumpeter from modern big bands Idrees Sulieman as the sixth wheel. From the opening number, the classic "Minor Mishap," you realize something special is happening. Flanagan is energized, playing bright and joyous melody lines, comping and soloing like the blossoming artist he was. Coltrane is effervescent and inspired, hot off the presses from the Miles Davis Quintet and searching for more expressionism. The other hard bop originals, "Eclypso" and "Solacium," easily burn with a cool flame not readily associated with East Coast jazz. Flanagan himself is the catalyst more than the horns -- dig his soaring, animated solo on "Eclypso" as he quotes "Jeepers Creepers." The near 12-minute blues "Tommy's Tune" is the perfect vehicle for Burrell, a prelude for his classics of the same period "All Day Long" and "All Night Long." The lone trio session, on the standard "How Long Has This Been Going On?," is regarded as quintessential Flanagan, and quite indicative of the Midwestern Motor City flavor Flanagan and his many peers brought into the mainstream jazz of the day and beyond. One yearns for alternate takes of this session. The Cats is a prelude to much more music from all of these masters that would come within a very short time period thereafter, and cannot come more highly recommended. It's a must-buy for the ages.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos