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?
Three of the pieces here appear on recordings for the first time, Road Movies for violin and piano (1995), Hallelujah Junction for two pianos, and American Berserk for piano (2001). The balance is given to the already familiar China Gates and Phrygian Gates played by pianists Nicolas Hodges and Rolf Hind, respectively, who join forces in the four-hand work. Actually, it's been a long time since there was a whole disc made up of chamber and/or keyboard works from Adams, who has been concentrating on orchestral music and pieces for ensembles. As such, this is a real treat -- the playing is expert on all counts, and the newer pieces sit comfortably side by side with the older ones, which are given a fresh perspective in these new recordings. While it may not be the album that never leaves your car stereo -- American Berserk is raucous enough that it could prove quite distracting during a traffic jam -- Road Movies is an immensely enjoyable collection that never runs out of gas.