The John Adams Quartet conjures up an image of a four-volume biography of an American President or perhaps a new minimalist string quartet from a contemporary composer. The ubiquitous-named John Adams is a bassist from Texas and his quartet plays the wide swath of America's midsection focusing on that most American of sounds, jazz. They are so focused that they play it extremely well.
Each member of the Quartet, that includes John Adams, Dennis Dotson on trumpet, Joe LoCascio on piano and Ed Soph on drums, have been playing with a long line of well-known jazz luminaries and performing together as a band for about ten years. Their latest CD shows how well they play together.
This CD, a live 1999 performance, is entitled "Fly By Night." One can only assume the title refers to the fact that they teach by day (they are music instructors at University of North Texas, University of Houston, and Houston Community College), and do what they really want to do at night and that is play ensemble jazz. One can hear that there is a collective sense to each other's moves. There is a lot of give-and-take, allowing each of the performers their own space. The solos are well done and sober. No soloist is particularly flashy (no one is trying to outshine the other). Instead, their brilliance is playing as a band.
There is a quiet majestic feel to their playing of "Sweet and Lovely." Adams and Dotson perform a delicate interplay on "In the Madness of My Being There." There is a sense of a Rashomon perspective from each of the three soloists on the incredibly sad and beautiful "Lover Man." And not surprisingly, these bespectacled instructors go slightly wild, but never lose control, on "Fly By Night." Their playing is confident and strong, supple and lyrical.