Known as the “Vice Pres” due to the similarity of his sound and style to Lester Young, tenor saxophonist Paul Quinichette (1916-1983) was creative within the approach that he chose.
Born in Denver, Quinichette played early on with the bands of Nat Towles, Shorty Sherock, and Ernie Fields. He gained some attention during his stints with Jay McShann (1942-1944) and Johnny Otis (1945-1947). Quinichette was also with the bands of Louis Jordan, Lucky Millinder, Henry “Red” Allen, and Hot Lips Page. All of this was a warmup to his year with Count Basie (1952-1953) which found him playing in Lester Young’s old chair, alerting the jazz world to his abilities. He also worked with Benny Goodman in 1955 but otherwise led his own groups in the 1950s, his prime period.
Quinichette recorded a variety of sessions during 1951-1959, including four albums for Prestige. On the Sunny Side from 1957 teams Quinichette in a septet with trombonist Curtis Fuller, pianist Mal Waldron, and both John Jenkins and Sonny Red on altos. Although the other players are more modern, Quinichette sounds comfortable with his sidemen; he is showcased on “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” Cattin’ with Coltrane and Quinichette, which is usually released under John Coltrane’s name, is surprisingly successful as the two very different tenor stylists challenge each other and battle to a tie.
Quinichette’s two other Prestige dates are reunions with Count Basie sidemen; all but the tenor are from the earlier Basie band. For Basie teams Quinichette with trumpeter Shad Collins while Basie Reunion has him joined by baritonist Jack Washington and both Collins and Buck Clayton on trumpets. The two enjoyable sets contain some of Quinichette’s finest playing.
Paul Quinichette left music in the late 1950s to become an electrical engineer. He returned to jazz for a couple years in the early-to-mid-’70s before permanently retiring due to ill health.