james newton

Poll-winning flutist James Newton stands in the forefront of a contemporary musical movement which continues to gather momentum on an international scale. Along with several others around the world, he leads the way in breaking down divisive categorical barriers while simultaneously creating a new and inclusive universal music.

Echo Canyon (13012-2), was entirely improvised on solo flute, recorded live, at night, outdoors, beneath a full moon, in the mountains northeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Over the years, Newton has completely assimilated music from America, Europe, Japan, India, Africa, South America, and elsewhere. On Echo Canyon, he spontaneously processed them through his personal psyche and transformed them. The whole of Echo Canyon constitutes an original world music, rhythmically free and lovingly connected with healing nature, that contains a near–perfect balance between intellect, spirit, passion, and form. Says Newton from his home in San Pedro, California:

"I've composed and improvised many different kinds of music, disregarding the limitations of established stylistic categories. That's the way my art evolves, and that's the way I am a person.. I've always believed that the whole of the earth is a huge palette, and the cultures of the world are like colors. Most musicians use only a few colors. I like to use many different colors in many different ways."

Newton's musical/cultural odyssey began at an early age. He was born in Los Angeles on May 1, 1953. His father was a career army man, and James traveled with his family throughout the world. He listened to the urban blues, R & B, and gospel recordings his parents played. At the age of ten, he began listening to the Beatles and Marvin Gaye. In 1965, Newton sang and played bass in a seven-piece R & B group, and by 1968, he and his guitarist had formed a trio, playing Jimi Hendrix and other rock music.

During his junior year at San Pedro High, Newton became interested in the flute. At eighteen, he entered nearby Mount San Antonio Junior College, and within two years he was playing European classical music eight hours a day.

From 1973 to 1976, he played in a group that included jazz greats Arthur Blythe, David Murray, Bobby Bradford, and Stanley Crouch. Crouch introduced young Newton to the entire history of jazz, from early Jelly Roll Morton to contemporary Miles Davis. Crouch also introduced him to folk and classical music from around the world, including African Pygmy, Japanese shakuhachi, and Balinese gamelan music.

At Cal State (1975-1977), Newton continued his studies of European classical music while playing jazz at night. In 1978, he moved to New York, where he lived intermittently until 1981, playing jazz with giants such as Cecil Taylor, Lester Bowie, and Anthony Davis. In 1982, he won his first Down Beat critics poll. In 1983 and 1984, he won both the critics and the readers polls. Newton has composed chamber music for piano, cello, and flute, performed by flute and string quartets and woodwind quintets; he has also composed for a variety of solo, duo, trio, sextet, octet and orchestral combinations.

James Newton continues to merge jazz improvisations and Eastern and Western classical music with a wide variety of world folk music. As demonstrated so well on Echo Canyon, the result is a fresh, new, higher consciousness music that taps into world cultures and historical time, addresses itself to the living present, and helps all receptive listeners grow towards a personally integrated, socially harmonious future.