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December 1997

James Newton
Above is Above All
Contour

Fearlessness and daring have long been major proponents in the career of flutist James Newton. World renowned for his incisive solo excursions, keen compositions and holistic approach to jazz history, Newton has successfully helped prevent jazz from being embalmed by its history. On his latest, and arguably most ambitious recording, Newton delves deeply into an elaborate web of esoteric electronica as he explores the various interlocking rhythms that unite the African musical diaspora.

Spacious, rhythmically complex, and murky, Above Is Above All boasts an apocalyptic, quasi-religious edginess that prevents it from being aural new age wallpaper. On the rhythmically challenging "African Cyborg" Newton creates a foreboding matrix of stuttering rhythms, jabbing electric basslines and suspenseful electronic effects that juxtaposes M-BASE inspired rhythms with conventional hip-hop. The samba-driven "Above Is Above All" rides a technocolorful wave of linear whispers and jagged rhythms. Despite the heavy-handed deployment of electronics and the limited showcase of Newton's brilliant flute playing, Newton's visionary compositions prove quite durable. Whether this is a turning point for Newton's restless spirit or just a curious venture into cyberspace, this recording warrants a close and open listen.

Originally published in December 1997
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