Review, Sonny Rollins, Way Out West, Deluxe Boxed Set, As Good as It Gets
I went to my mailbox the other day and there was a record box. This was strange because I hadn’t remembered ordering any records. But there it was and I opened it. Surprise! A brand new boxed set of Sonny Rollins Way Out West. A promo copy. Understand, I’ve gotten about three promo copies in the 15-plus years I’ve been doing Jazz Collector. I don’t typically do reviews, so nobody puts me on the list. I did make the list on this one and, man, am I pleased. This is a really fantastic set, just what a reissue should be all about. Two LPs, including material that was never released at all and some material that was only issued on CD. New liner notes, including quotes from a 2017 interview with Sonny conducted specifically for the release of this set. Great Bill Claxton photographs and high-end packaging all the way around. Congratulations to Craft Recordings for doing justice to a great album on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of its original release. A couple of bonuses on the album are
snippets of conversations between Sonny and the musicians and Sonny and producer Lester Koenig. Hey, just hearing Sonny singing a few lines of I’m “An Old Cowhand” – yippee yi yo kayah – is worth the price of admission. Not to mention his query about why there might be a problem with using the title “After You’ve Come,” instead of the accepted title of “Come, Gone.” But the real highlight is, of course, the music. First of all the sound on these LPs is excellent. The additional tracks comprise single new takes of “I’m An Old Cowhand,” “Come, Gone,” and “There is No Greater Love.” There are also two takes of “Way Out West.” The “No Greater Love” and first take of “Way Out West” are issued here for the first time.
Listening to the unreleased takes and the ones previously issued on CD, which I never heard before, you realize just how inventive Rollins was in this period. His approach to “Cowhand” is quite different than the originally issued version and you just don’t find him repeating himself anywhere. It certainly helps that he was working with Ray Brown and Shelley Manne. The fact that they had never played together before and began this session at 3 a.m. just tells you the kinds of special gifts that these three musicians had, all of them at the peak of their powers. I just took a look over at Amazon and the retail price of the boxed set is $72.19. Well worth it, IMHO.
We’ll give Sonny the final word on this, from the new liner notes by Neil Tesser. Tesser asked Sonny to talk about his quality of play on the record. Sonny’s reply:
“You know, I’m not a good guy for praising or appreciating my own work. That’s the reason I like to practice – to get better, to get to the next album. Yeah, it was OK. I had some great people. It was a unique concept; I’m glad I did it. And then William Claxton, that iconic photo. I’m glad it happened, but other than that, I’m not good at rating it.”