Go West!: The Contemporary Records Albums combines legendary Jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ two studio albums for Lester Koenig’s Contemporary Records, Way Out West and And The Contemporary Leaders, with a third disc, Contemporary Alternate Takes.
Recorded in 1957, the timeless Way out West established Sonny Rollins as jazz's top tenor saxophonist. Joined by bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne, Rollins is heard at one of his peaks on such pieces as "I'm an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande)," his own "Way out West," "There Is No Greater Love," and "Come, Gone" (a fast stomp based on "After You've Gone"). The William Claxton photo of Rollins wearing Western gear (and holding his tenor) in the desert is also a classic.
Rollins next album for Contemporary Records, And The Contemporary Leaders was released the following year, in 1958. The last of the classic Sonny Rollins albums prior to his unexpected three-year retirement features the great tenor with pianist Hampton Hawes, guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Shelly Manne (all bandleaders for Contemporary Records during this era) on an unusual but inspired list of standards. Rollins creates explorative and often witty improvisations on such songs as "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody," "You," "In the Chapel in the Moonlight," and roaring versions of "I've Found a New Baby" and "The Song Is You." Great music.
The final disc in the collection, Contemporary Alternate Takes, contains alternate versions of selections from the two albums. These "new" renditions of "I'm an Old Cowhand," "Come, Gone," "Way Out West," "The Song Is You," "You," and "I've Found a New Baby" (released for the first time in the mid-'80s) hold their own against the classic versions. Rollins is heard with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne on the first session, and is joined by a four-piece rhythm section (including pianist Hampton Hawes and guitarist Barney Kessel) on the later date. In any case, the music is often hard-swinging and is frequently superb..