Tenor saxophonist George Adams' third recording as a leader (following two obscure releases for the Italian Horo label) is a little unusual in that the extroverted soloist is heard on the usually introverted ECM label. Adams is teamed with fellow tenor Heinz Sauer (who has a cooler sound), trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, pianist Richard Beirach, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette for five group originals. The playing is advanced but not as fiery as most of Adams' later sets.
Of all the so-called minimalists working today, John Adams is the only one with any good ideas left. Witness this delightful release. The key to Adams's creativity is that he isn't bound by theoretical constraints on what "minimalism" should be. Century Rolls (1995) is a commission by Emanuel Ax, and it was inspired by the composer's listening to a CD recording of an ancient player piano.
In terms of the scale of his compositions, John Adams' career is somewhat anomalous for a contemporary composer. While the usual pattern tends to be for a composer to begin a career writing smaller pieces (which have a far likelier chance of being performed) and then expanding to larger forms as his or her reputation grows, Adams (with very few exceptions) was writing large-scale operas and orchestral and choral works starting in the early '80s and didn't begin devoting himself to chamber music with any regularity until the mid-'90s.
Composer John Adams' album Road Movies contains five pieces that Adams' considers "travel music, (…) passing through harmonic and textural regions as one would pass through on a car trip." Indeed, during Leila Josefowicz's spirited and appropriately brusque reading of the "40% Swing" movement from the title work, one hears what sounds like a passing auto in the left channel. Is it mere coincidence or the album concept channeling onto the master tape?