It's easy to look at the titles of a number of jazz musicians' albums from the 1950s and wonder to oneself: were these guys egotistical? Tenor Sonny Rollins, for instance, named one album Saxophone Colossus and another Tour de Force. While one might blush at the lack of modesty, it's still difficult to argue about the results. Rollins, as he appears on The Best of Sonny Rollins, simply is a colossus and the music he makes is a tour de force. The album collects tracks from Rollins' work on Prestige during the early- to mid-'50s, some of the most exciting work he has ever laid down on tape. He's joined by other giants including fellow tenor John Coltrane, trumpeter Clifford Brown, and pianist Tommy Flanagan for a solid set list. Pieces are drawn from the above mentioned albums ("St. Thomas" and "My Ideal" respectively), and offer a good representation of Rollins' work during this time. There's a forceful take on "It's All Right With Me," featuring pianist Ray Bryant, bassist George Morrow, and drummer Max Roach, and a lovely version of Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" with pianist John Lewis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Kenny Clarke. The album ends on a high point with an extended version of "Tenor Madness," a title befitting the headlining of two of jazz's best tenors, Rollins and Coltrane. The Best of Sonny Rollins may not collect all of the tenor's best work, but it's a grand place to start for new fans.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.