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Newton, James, 1983 September 13

 Item — Multiple Containers

Scope and Contents

Composer, conductor, and flutist James Newton lectured on 9/13/1983 (2015-0002/RR237). Newton is primarily known as a classical and jazz flautist. Although being multi-instrumental during his childhood and early adult years, Newton began to focus more directly on the flute and eventually earned a BA in music from California State University, Los Angeles in 1980. Throughout the 1970s, Newton played in various jazz ensembles, recorded, and toured across Europe and the US.

Starting in the 1980s, Newton began to perform with players who performed on non-Western instruments, the first of which was the Japanese koto with whom he recorded an album dedicated to Duke Ellington’s music in 1985. After touring and recording in Cologne, Germany, Newton consistently included Jon Jang (the band leader on the African-Chinese Sextet) in his quartet, and from this affiliation Newton recorded Chinese folk songs, jazz, and blues in a duo with an erhu player (Han Chinese two-string violin). Throughout the 1990s, Newton recorded an amalgam of jazz and South Indian classical music with the alto saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath and the mṛdaṅga (two-headed drum) player P. Svinivasan.

In addition to Newton’s extensive jazz experience, he also toured and performed frequently with classical chamber groups, symphony orchestras, and ballet and theater ensembles. Newton has taught at the California Institute of the Arts (1985-1992) and the University of California, Irvine (1992-present).

RR 237 Hale Smith explains the division of labor for the class between himself and Edward O'Connor, rationale for the course and then introduces the speaker, James Newton. Mr. Newton shares his life experiences since becoming an artist and how being a part of the Black experience as an artist has affected his life.


  • 1983 September 13

Conditions Governing Access

Links to digitized content are included in the finding aid.

Biographical / Historical

James W. Newton was born May 1, 1953 Los Angeles, CA. From his earliest years, James Newton grew up immersed in the sounds of African-American music, including urban blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel. In his early teens he played electric bass guitar, alto saxophone, and clarinet. In high school he took up the flute, influenced by Eric Dolphy. In addition to taking lessons in classical music on flute, he also studied jazz with Buddy Collette. He completed his formal musical training at California State University, Los Angeles.

From 1972 to 1975, together with David Murray, Bobby Bradford, and Arthur Blythe, Newton was a member of drummer (and later critic) Stanley Crouch's band Black Music Infinity. From 1978 to 1981, he lived in New York, leading a trio with pianist and composer Anthony Davis and cellist Abdul Wadud. These three played extended chamber jazz and Third Stream compositions by Newton and Davis. With Davis, Newton founded a quartet and toured successfully in Europe in the early 1980s. Afterwards, he performed with a wide variety of musicians, including projects by John Carter and the Mingus Dynasty. Newton has released four recordings of his solo improvisations for flute. Since the 1990s, Newton has often worked with musicians from other cultural spheres, including Jon Jang, Gao Hong, Kadri Gopalnath, and Shubhendra Rao, and has taken part in many cross-cultural projects.

Newton has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Brooklyn Philharmonic, L'Orchestre du Conservatoire de Paris, Vladimir Spivakov and the Moscow Virtuosi the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Southwest Chamber Music, California EAR Unit, New York New Music Ensemble, and the San Francisco Ballet.

He served for five years as Musical Director/Conductor of the Luckman Jazz Orchestra and has held professorships at the University of California, Irvine, the California Institute of the Arts, and California State University, Los Angeles. In 1989, he wrote and published a method book entitled The Improvising Flute. In 2007, he published Daily Focus For The Flute.

He has also composed classical works for chamber ensemble and orchestra, as well as electronic music. In 1997, he wrote an opera, The Songs of Freedom. In his compositional output, he specializes in chamber music and writing for unconventional instrumentations. He has also written a symphony and composed for ballet and modern dance. In 2006, he composed a Latin Mass which premiered in Prato, Italy, in February 2007.

He has received Guggenheim (1992) and Rockefeller fellowships, Montreux Grande Prix Du Disque, and Down Beat International Critics Jazz Album of the Year. [ /]


1 Reels (Magnetic tape audio recording ) : RR 237 1 reel, 1:00:09; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester.

Language of Materials

From the Series: English

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
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