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Sonny Swings Out West

16 APR 10 CHRIS SLAWECKI

Sonny Rollins had many good reasons to give his 1957 trio set Way Out West that title. A New York native, Rollins recorded this session at Contemporary Records' studio in Los Angeles while he was already in town to record at a different studio for another band (The Max Roach Quintet). On Way Out West, now available in the OJC Remaster series, Rollins teams with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne, a shining light of the "West Coast jazz" of this time.

More importantly, as Rollins later reflected, "It's a tribute to independence and being self-sufficient," a spirit that the saxophonist embodied by performing with a small, piano-less ensemble that provides musical support, but no cover. The OJC Remaster of Way Out West includes three alternate takes that did not appear on the original release, delivering nearly 30 minutes of additional music.

"Wagon Wheels" and Johnny Mercer's "I'm An Old Cowhand" serve as thematic pieces. The lack of piano opens up plenty of spacious prairie for Rollins' tenor to roam, and Brown ingeniously turns the wooden clip-clop sound of a sauntering horse, through just a few deftly placed notes, into relaxed and roomy blues shuffles. Rollins' "Come, Gone" catches the angular, geometric sound of modern be-bop, one of the first generational ripples after that initial Charlie Parker/Bud Powell wave.

Ultimately, 1957 proved to be a banner year for Rollins. This same year he also released The Sound Of Sonny (available in the remastered Keepnews Collection series), and appeared on Miles Davis' Bags' Groove and Thelonious Monk's Brilliant Corners.

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