JazzTimes 10: Essential Jazz Flute Albums

So you say the flute isn't a key jazz instrument? It can still blow your mind.

8. James Newton: Axum (ECM, 1982)

Only Nicole Mitchell rivals James Newton among jazz flute specialists for depth and scope within a single catalogue. And when it comes to solo flute recordings, not even Mitchell comes close. Axum commands the listener’s full attention, whether on one of Newton’s long, liturgy-like inquiries (“Choir”), folk-evocative pieces (“Axum”), or his thrice-overdubbed “Addis Ababa” and “The Neser” for concert, alto, and bass flutes. The entire album has an aura of enigma and spirituality, epitomized by the searching bass-flute solo “Solomon, Chief of Wise Men.” Perhaps the most ingenious of the tracks—with Newton using humming and even his own breathing as accompaniment—it’s certainly the most moving. The man behind this record is not merely an artist of high caliber, but a guru.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.