James Newton (composer/flutist)
Mr. Newton’s work encompasses chamber, symphonic, and electronic music genres, compositions for ballet and modern dance, and numerous jazz and world music contexts.
Mr. Newton has been the recipient of many awards, fellowships, and grants, including the Ford Foundation, Guggenheim, National Endowment of the Arts and Rockefeller Fellowships, Montreux Grande Prix Du Disque and Downbeat International Critics Jazz Album of the Year, as well as being voted the top flutist for a record-breaking 23 consecutive years in Downbeat Magazine’s International Critics Poll.
In 2005 Newton decided to commence the greatest challenge of his compositional career – a trilogy of large-scale sacred works: Mass, St. Matthew Passion, and a setting of Psalm 119. Mass, completed in early 2007, received its premiere at the 2007 Metastasio Festival in Prato, Italy. Its U.S. premiere (an expanded choral version) occurred in 2011 with Grant Gershon conducting the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Newton completed his St. Matthew Passion in 2014. Its World premiere, with Grant Gershon conducting Coro e Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Torino, occurred in 2015 during the Torino Jazz and La Sidone Festivals. Mr. Newton is the first African American and the first composer rooted in the Jazz tradition to compose a St. Matthew Passion. His research on the final installment of the trilogy, Psalm 119, began in the summer of 2017, and he completed the work in the spring of 2021.
Described as a musician’s renaissance man, Newton has performed with and composed for many notable artists in the jazz and classical fields: San Francisco Ballet, Coro e Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Torino, Vladimir Spivakov and the Moscow Virtuosi, Mingus Dynasty, Anthony Davis, David Murray, Aurèle Nicolet, Dino Saluzzi, Zakir Hussain, Geri Allen, New York Philharmonic, Cecil Taylor, Emmanuel Pahud, Grant Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Billy Hart, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Henry Threadgill, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Ensemble für Neue Musik (Zurich), Gloria Cheng, Jon Jang, and Frank Wess among others.
Mr. Newton’s works have been performed at notable venues including Carnegie Hall, the San Francisco Opera House, The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Cité de la Musique Paris, France, Berlin National Gallery, Teatro Romano, Verona, Italy, The Walt Disney Concert Hall, Hollywood Bowl, RAI Auditorium, Torino, Italy, Blas Galindo Auditorium, Mexico City, Mexico, Teatro Strehler, Milano, Italy, Theatre de la Ville, Paris, France, Parco Concert Hall, Tokyo, Japan, DIRECTV Music Hall, Rio De Janeiro, Severance Hall, Cleveland, Studio Koncertowe Polska Radio im. Witolda Lutoslawskiego, Warsaw Poland, Amsterdam Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Museum, New York, New York.
In addition to significant compositions, Mr. Newton’s recent work includes his co-producing with Zev Feldman, a release of the work of notable jazz multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy. The recording, entitled Eric Dolphy Musical Prophet (The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions) on Resonance Records, was released in late 2018. It was runner-up for the 2019 DownBeat International Critics’ Poll Reissue of the Year Award.
Newton is a distinguished professor emeritus at the Herb Alpert School of Music, the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also held professorships at the University of California at Irvine, California Institute of the Arts, and Cal State University Los Angeles. In May of 2005, the California Institute of the Arts awarded Mr. Newton a Doctor of Arts Degree, Honoris Causa.