Way Out West by Sonny Rollins
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Widely acknowledged as the most significant and accomplished tenor saxophonist in the world, Sonny Rollins's recording legacy is nothing short of extraordinary. Beginning as a sideman in the late-'40s, he worked with Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Clifford Brown, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, and Miles Davis. Since recording his first date as a leader in 1954, Rollins has recorded dozens of albums for numerous labels, eventually settling in for a long stay on Milestone. Way Out West
, recorded in 1957, is one of two superb albums cut for the small, California-based Contemporary label (the other is 1958's Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders
). Although a consummate sideman, Rollins rarely seems at ease with his pianists on his own dates, and Way Out West
's trio format, with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne, dispenses with that problem. The tenorman's playful humor is evident in the album's selections, which include such unlikely candidates as "Wagon Wheels" and "I'm an Old Cowhand"--both elevated to previously unimaginable heights. This is a remarkably confident album--relaxed, swinging, thoughtful and deeply satisfying. And just in case that's not enough, the cover photo, featuring Rollins in Stetson and holster with his horn on his hip, is about as cool as it gets. --Fred Goodman