In high school he took up the flute, influenced by Eric Dolphy and Roland Kirk. 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. 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.
He has also worked with Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Lester Bowie, Leroy Jenkins, Chet Baker, Kenny Burrell, and Andrew Cyrille. 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, San Francisco Ballet, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group. 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 published a method book entitled The Improvising 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.
Based on the knowledge of the deep tradition of "extended" jazz compositions and European contemporary music, Newton uses post-serial methods in composing. His compositions may be judged as specifically African American not solely because of the presence of crucial idiomatic elements such as rhythm, pronunciation, and transformation of sound, but also because of their dialoging between different cultures. 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. Read more on Last.fm.
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