Composed in 2013 for, and dedicated to, Tim McAllister, John Adams’ new concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra is a major addition to the instrument’s repertoire. Inspired by classic studio recordings from the fifties and sixties by Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and Cannonball Adderley, as well as McAllister’s celebrated work in the composer’s earlier work, “City Noir,” the new concerto pushes the limits of the instruments technical and expressive powers, while providing an exciting ‘tour de force’ for the entire orchestra. In the first commercial release of the work, Tim McAllister joins the Saint Louis Symphony under David Robertson (info below), which is coupled with the aforementioned “City Noir.” The work is available through Boosey & Hawkes.

Booking Information

Martha Woods
Jonathan Wentworth Associates Ltd.
6118 40th Avenue
Hyattsville, MD, 20782-3012

The Premiere

The Recording

John ADAMS: City Noir/Saxophone Concerto; David Robertson/St. Louis Symphony

2015 GRAMMY-Award winner for “Best Orchestral Performance”, Nonesuch Records’ “John Adams: City Noir”—comprising the title piece by composer John Adams and the debut recording of his Saxophone Concerto—was released on May 6, 2014. Both pieces are performed by the St. Louis Symphony led by Music Director David Robertson. Saxophonist Timothy McAllister is featured on both pieces.

Release Date May 6, 2014
Producer Nonesuch Records
Catalog Number 541356

Interviews & Features

“Classical Saxophone in Proms Spotlight” — BBC News, September 2014 Visit Site
“Tim McAllister on John Adams' new 'Saxophone Concerto'” — Boosey & Hawkes, August 2013 Visit Site
“The Concerto: A 400 Year Old Recipe That Still Cooks” — Deceptive Cadence, National Public Radio, June 2014 Visit Site
“Timothy McAllister Deconstructs John Adams' Saxophone Concerto” — San Jose Mercury News, August 2014 Visit Site
“Classical Saxophone, An Outlier, is Annointed by John Adams Concerto” — The New York Times, September 2013 Visit Site
“John Adams Talks Jazz: Q&A” — San Jose Mercury News, August 2014 Visit Site
“John Adams' New Concerto Uses Saxophone as More Than a Special Effect” — Colorado Public Radio, July 2014 Visit Site
“Soundnotion 128: 'Up There'” — August 2013 Visit Site
“Sax and the City Noir” — Limelight Magazine, August 2014 Visit Site

The Critics Speak

“…the 136-year-old ensemble led by David Robertson, its music director since 2005, and its traveling virtuoso saxophonist, Timothy McAllister…he premiered the piece in 2013 and gave a steadily energetic, swimmingly sweeping performance of the modern work.” Link to full review

Bradley Zint Los Angeles Times (2/1/16)

“Adams’ new Saxophone Concerto, which had its first local performance with Timothy McAllister as the extravagantly focused soloist, marks a wonderfully important addition to the repertoire. Much of it comes at the listener in fast, breathless waves, like a cross between a Romantic concerto and a Charlie Parker solo; the contrasting episodes sustain a lustrous, debonair edge” Link to full review.

Joshua Kosman San Francisco Chronicle (2/1/16)

“Couched in Adams’ latter-day style in which fractured rhythms and thematic units exist within a potent stream of pulsation, the Saxophone Concerto also draws upon jazz influences, its soloist tumbling this way and that in pseudo-improvisatory vein…McAllister, a phenomenal technician, played it all smoothly, with classical restraint…Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony excelled in the mysteriously dappled, feinting and jabbing accompaniment.”

Tim Mangan The Orange County Register (1/28/16)

[Critics’ Picks: Musical Must-Haves for your holiday list: John Adams, Saxophone Concerto, City Noir] “Adams conjures up the seductive yet dangerous swagger of postwar Los Angeles…McAllister, the virtuoso and stylistically nimble saxophonist, lights up this recording…”

Brian McCollum and Mark Stryker Detroit Free Press (12/14/14)

“Agile and sometimes contorted, McAllister relentlessly delivered the goods, riding the top of Adams’ melded composite of sound…the best moments were found in McAllister’s melodies shifting seamlessly as they morphed through the ensemble…”

Dorothy Hindman Miami Herald (12/8/14)

[REVIEW: “The RLPO presents ‘Sax in the City’”] “This being an evening dedicated to the unsung sax, its foremost classical exponent, Timothy McAllister, had made the journey from the US to reprise his performance of John Adams’ new Saxophone Concerto…the work is jazz-infused, the spiralling solos giving McAllister the chance to showcase a wonderful musical agility…”

Catherine Jones The Liverpool Echo (UK) (11/27/14)

[REVIEW: “Adolphe Sax’s 200th celebrated in style in Liverpool with Adams’ concerto”] “John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto, premiered just last year, was received with enthusiastic whoops, and with good reason. Its greatest champion, the soloist Timothy McAllister, painted it with a rich spectrum of sonic colour in addition to offering an astounding display of virtuosity. His technical facility did a great deal for the soft fluidity of the early parts of the concerto, especially in the tranquillo passages. The sustained intensity of the second movement, as it went on, made his ongoing displays all the more impressive for his remarkable stamina…The large ovation was richly deserved; here, surely, is a work which demands to be programmed regularly in the coming years.”

Rohan Shotton BACHTRACK (12/1/2014)

“The star of the show was the saxophonist Timothy McAllister, all pep and bounce and loose-limbed lyricism in John Adams’s 2013 Saxophone Concerto. It reads like a love letter to the giants of be-bop and swing, with orchestration as plush as a velvet banquette, honeyed harmonies from a choir of flutes and clarinets, and mirror-ball figures for celesta. At ease and alert, McAllister dazzled and crooned, passing a new idea to the leader Laura Samuel, then on to the clarinettist James Burke. The material is slender but brilliantly scored, an American dream of neon signage and slick city streets.”

Anna Picard The Times (UK) (9/7/14)

“Adams, a long-standing jazz fan, writes expertly for the instrument. And the soloist Timothy McAllister makes an excellent advocate…we hear plenty of seductive sounds, with subtle echoes of composers including Debussy and Holst. The effect is atmospheric, and it’s hard not to be carried along by the work’s vigour, fearlessly embraced by McAllister and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop.”

Hannah Nepil Financial Times (UK) (9/7/14)

[Review: “John Adams Saxophone Concerto is a Hit”] “Adams’s new Saxophone Concerto, with its dedicatee Timothy McAllister as the soloist, was fascinating. Adams grew up listening to bebop, and that idiom shone exhilaratingly through, but there were also echoes of Stravinsky and Bernstein. The intricate inventiveness of the solo line was subtly shadowed by bassoon, flute, and the saxophone’s clarinet cousin: Marin Alsop and the BBC Symphony Orchestra did it proud.”

Michael Church The Independent (UK) (9/8/14)

“The virtuosic writing makes uncompromising demands on the soloist, challenges to which Timothy McAllister rose most impressively, maintaining a fullness of tone where Adams’s writing is lyrical while handling some incredibly difficult fast passages with commendable ease and clarity…Adams has enriched the sparse repertoire with an impressively argued structure”

Ben Hogwood Classical Source (UK) (9/5/14)

[REVIEW: “PROMS 2014 - BBCSO/Alsop - masterful and brilliantly effective”] “McAllister demonstrated his easy mastery of both its content and style, forming a partnership of equals with Alsop”

George Hall The Guardian (UK) (9/5/14)

“McAllister was the tirelessly virtuosic soloist, playing with rhythmic drive and confident swagger…”

Hugo Shirley The Telegraph (UK) (9/5/14)

“Adams has created a compelling demonstration of the instrument’s unique orchestral potential. McAllister was superb, his technical command of the score impeccable, yet with a tone of molten amber, his saxophone bubbling like a hookah pipe with intoxication, his playing gave the piece its originality”

Matthew Wright The Arts Desk Journal (UK) (9/5/14)

“Timothy McAllister played the insanely difficult solo part with the bold confidence and high energy of an A-list bopper in full tilt…again and again, the composer [Adams] calls upon McAllister to develop a melodic fragment in ever-lengthening and ever more intense iterations. McAllister, de Waart and the MSO seized avidly on these patterns of growth. They made the music as wildly thrilling as Adams surely intended it to be.”

Tom Strini Tom Strini Writes (March 2014)

[Review: “Adams’ Concerto Saxophone Concerto gets astonishing performance”] “John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto demonstrated that the instrument most often associated with jazz, blues and soul is perfectly capable of taking center stage on an orchestral program. Composed in 2013 for saxophonist Timothy McAllister, who premiered it last year with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and who served as Saturday’s excellent soloist, the 30-minute piece was exhilarating…the solo writing is mercurial: McAllister’s playing was edgy and insistent one moment, velvety-smooth the next…McAllister was astonishing: the soloist’s part is hugely demanding, and the saxophonist negotiated it with utter assurance. No wonder Adams, who was in the audience, called him ‘the best in the world.’ “

Georgia Rowe San Jose Mercury News (Aug. 2014)

“This was a virtuosic performance by guest soloist Tim McAllister for whom it was written and whom Adams introduced as ‘the best saxophone player in the world today.’ Its angular, leaping melodic outbursts form a contrast to the other pieces on the program, but there are no extended techniques required, just amazing agility in the natural range of the instrument. Its two movements rely on tight rhythmic precision as it proceeds resolutely onwards through a myriad of polyrhythms, its jazz influences lying just below the surface at all times. In the slow movement’s sultry mood, the velvet tone of McAllister’s playing was magnificent.”

Heather Morris Santa Cruz Sentinel (Aug. 2014)

“Adams wrote the piece in 2013 for Tim McAllister who Adams called ‘the best sax player in the world.’ From the very beginning the saxophone unleashed a barrage of notes. A few pauses gave everyone a chance to breathe but the orchestra often took up the same flurry of notes so only McAllister got a chance to catch his breath…there is no doubt that the main point of the piece was virtuosity. In spite of all the pyrotechnics, McAllister’s tone quality was beautiful with a well-modulated vibrato and no edgy sounds.”

Don Adkins Performing Arts Monterey Bay (Aug. 2014)

“This new recording reunites conductor, orchestra and record label and adds a first-class soloist, saxophonist Timothy McAllister. “City Noir,” which gets some of its inspiration from movies like “Double Indemnity,” begins with hyperkinetic power shifting to ominous quiet and melancholy passages for McAllister’s soulful alto sax…performances are all superb…the jazz-filled Saxophone Concerto was written specifically for McAllister, and his performance, well-supported by Robertson, is amazing.”

Sarah B Miller St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Aug. 2014)

“Adams imparts a lighter touch to the orchestration to support the solo alto saxophone’s sinewy lines, played with wondrous dexterity by Timothy McAllister”

Pwyll ap Sion GRAMOPHONE Magazine (Aug. 2014)

“Adams wanted a sax sound associated with jazz performance…McAllister’s powerful performance does have a more ‘American’ sound, while the St. Louis Symphony achieves the intended fusion of bebop into its veins while maintaining a sense of clarity and conciseness throughout…vital, engaging performances by all involved”

Alexandra Gardner NewMusicBox (July 8, 2014)

“Relatively few classical composers have given the instrument a successful spotlight, but John Adams is out to change that with his new Saxophone Concerto…a gleaming vehicle for virtuoso saxophonist Timothy McAllister. He nails the fluent angularity and punchiness in the music with a lyrical touch somewhere comfortably between jazz and classical styles”

Tom Huizenga Deceptive Cadence from NPR Classical (June 12, 2014)

“Both violinist Leila Josefewicz and saxophonist Timothy McAllister gave incredible performances this evening. McAllister was the eye of a storm in his performance, delivering endless cascades of notes with Zen-like control, and acrobatic grace…Adams’ Saxophone Concerto is a solid new contribution to a genre that is undeservedly underrepresented. The star of the show was, hands down, McAllister, whose prowess portends great things to come, not just for himself, but for the presence of saxophones in the classical concert hall”

Jason Gerraughty I CARE IF YOU LISTEN (Aug 30, 2013)

“★★★★★ out of five—Performance, ★★★★★ out of five—Recording (John Adams City Noir; Saxophone Concerto; Nonesuch/St. Louis Symphony)”

David Nice BBC Music Magazine (July 2014)

“the saxophone concerto that accompanies City Noir carries bebop in its DNA, and soloist Timothy McAllister is simply outstanding.”

Anastasia Tsioulcas NPR Music’s 25 Favorite Albums of 2014 (So Far)

“4 out of 5 stars—the saxophone concerto is playfully smoochy…Adams demonstrates how well he understands the instrument, and McAllister how well he can play it…”

Andrew Clark The Financial Times (UK) (June 2014)

“Adams’s Saxophone Concerto was brought about by the stimulus of an extraordinary musician. Timothy McAllister’s seemingly effortless handling of the “City Noir” solos…determined Adams to write a concerto for him in that style…The playing of McAllister is a wonder to hear, and the performances by Robertson and company set the standard for these works…”

Ronald Grames FANFARE Magazine (Nov/Dec 2014 issue)

“Dense, brash and exuberant, these two stellar works by John Adams are love letters to the confidence of the 1950s and a time when some of the greatest feats of virtuosity were often performed in smoky jazz clubs. David Robertson leads an incisive performance; the saxophonist Timothy McAllister sizzles”

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim The New York Times (June 2014)

“expertly written for the brilliant Timothy McAllister, and the music has the infectious, irresistible energy [Adams] generates so convincingly…”

Andrew Clements The Guardian (UK) (6/4/14)

“the main attraction of this enjoyable St. Louis Symphony album, conducted by David Robertson, is Adams’ Saxophone Concerto, composed for the virtuosic Timothy McAllister, who plays it here. Stacked with swing-era allusions, moody 4am interludes and cartwheeling acrobatics, it is unpretentious fun from start to finish”

Richard Morrison The Times London (5/31/14)

“a highly engaging venture into the spirit of the riff, so to speak, without ever explicitly acknowledging the roots of that spirit in Bird’s solos…This recording is particularly satisfying, not only for the facility with which McAllister jumps through all of the hoops that Adams has created but also for the informed rhetorical context that Robertson establishes as conductor.”

Stephen Smoliar Stephen Smoliar, The Examiner (5/8/14)

“a fearless musician and risk taker…a one-of-a-kind artist the way Yo-Yo Ma is”

John Adams Pulitzer Prize Laureate and Grammy-winning composer

“McAllister is at the center of what’s probably the most mainstream classical saxophone disc of the decade - John Adams’ City Noir and Saxophone Concerto on Nonesuch”

David Patrick Stearns The Philadelphia Inquirer (April 2014)

“Timothy McAllister, the saxophonist virtuoso for whom this concerto was written, performed with amazing fluency, combining crisp rhythmic energy with infectious, stylish phrasing. Jazz influences, appropriate to the instrument, are often just below the surface. Moody sections, reminiscent of a film noir score, are particularly effective. This is certainly one of the most original and successful concertos written for any instrument in recent decades.”

Rick Walters Express Milwaukee (April 2, 2014)

“Adams’s concerto followed, full of impatient energy, nods to various styles of music and some wildly intense saxophone lines…the piece was full of saxophone pyrotechnics that McAllister played with command and ease. He moved gracefully from a bold, brassy sound to mellow, almost vocal strains, playing with the precision and polish of a classical player and a musical freedom that made much of the piece sound improvised on the spot”

Elaine Schmidt Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (March 28, 2014)

“The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra paired the Eroica with a relatively new piece by John Adams, featuring saxophone virtuoso Timothy McAllister, for whom it was composed. It’s a daunting, virtuosic piece of work, a half-hour long, two-movement piece that allows the soloist almost no rest for its duration…McAllister’s signature sound is gorgeous—smooth and liquid—very similar to a clarinet in the middle register, and only a touch meatier at the bottom and top”

Paul Kosidowski Milwaukee Magazine (March 29, 2014)

“Certainly this is a virtuosic piece, designed to test the limits of the soloist for whom it was written, Tim McAllister, who showed his technical chops and his expressive musicianship with a piece that had his instrument now noodling thoughtfully, now dashing in crazy, frenetic runs up and down the scale…”

Anne Midgette Washington Post (Sept 2013)

“Mr. Adams took inspiration from the virtuoso technique of Mr. McAllister…one of the foremost saxophonists of his generation”

William Robin The New York Times (Sept. 2013)

“[John] Adams wrote the concerto for saxophone virtuoso Tim McAllister, who played it Friday with consummate polish and verve”

Charles Downey The Classical Review (Sept 2013)

“the score deftly fuses classical and jazz elements to create a cohesive, arresting experience…it was written to match the talents of Tim McAllister, a sterling saxophonist who can handle those elements effortlessly…a kinetic, ecstatic ride that achieves giddy heights along the way…McAllister’s splendid playing drew a hearty ovation from the audience and orchestra”

Tim Smith The Baltimore Sun (Sept. 2013)

“…the world premiere of his new saxophone concerto was, therefore, a very special moment indeed. John Adams’ saxophone concerto is written for classical saxophonist Timothy McAllister. He gave an astonishing performance. Adams has thrown down the gauntlet with a solo line which demands speed, flexibility, musicality and, above all, stamina to keep going with barely a bar’s rest. McAllister delivered, punching out the “nervous bebop” sound (Adams’ description) with manic intensity, like a Charlie Parker or Stan Getz solo sustained across 30 minutes”

Harriet Cunningham The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Aug 2013

“John Adams’ new concerto has an appealing blend of bright colours and astringency. Saxophonist Timothy McAllister was the outstanding soloist, channelling Stan Getz in the smooth lyrical passages. In the relentless, bebop-like figurations - stunningly executed - it recalled the frenetic solos of Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane”

Murray Black The Australian, Aug 2013

“The [Adams] concerto did not disappoint, with the orchestra joined on stage by American saxophonist Tim McAllister, whose jazz-style meanderings splendidly showcased the instrument’s power and agility in the first movement. The second and final movement saw an explosion of energy…McAllister remained supremely in control of the work’s demanding semiquaver passages; octave leaps were frequent and jarring”

Hallam Fulcher Limelight Magazine (ABC Australia), Aug 2013