James Walker and Free Flight – Threads


James Walker was the principal flutist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for many years. His accomplishments in fusing jazz and classical resulted in Free Flight, which was formed in the 1980s.

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Free Flight was founded by James Walker in 1980 as a jazz outlet from his career as principal flutist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Their sound has turned jazz fans into classical buffs and classical audiences toward jazz. From Bach to Beethoven to Miles Davis to the Beatles, their “eclecticism without compromise” can be heard not simply piece by piece, but within each composition, blending together flavors of classical, jazz, new age and rock music into a palatable whole.

Whatever legitimacy the label “Crossover” holds for their sound, in performance Free Flight always encourages the crossover of audiences’ tastes no matter what the setting.

Leader and flutist, Jim Walker, says Free Flight has always been “Performance-oriented, reaching people above and beyond the style of music played.” And the proof is, they have never had anything close to a mediocre reaction to any performance. A critic may have put it best: “If you can sit still while listening to Free Flight, you’re either deaf or dead.”

Their ongoing success comes as much from their personalities as from technical brilliance, improvisational flair and compositional density. Audiences know, Free Flight is Fun!

The clairvoyant interplay between Jim and Bryan Pezzone flows down into the crowd, uplifting and always entertaining. An evening of Free Flight may possess the cool side of jazz, the tranquillity of classical, as well as rock’s drive, but make no mistake: Free Flight doesn’t distance itself from it’s listeners with these, its personalities draw people in.

Modern technology has allowed the group to keep up with the contemporary production standards, while relying primarily on the sonority of the acoustic flute, piano, bass & percussion.

Jim says his concept of a flute-led jazz/classical ensemble had a strong appeal to a musician raised on jazz, but who found his profession in world-famous orchestras for 15 years. Ten recordings plus appearances on the “Tonight Show”, Lincoln Center, and the Hollywood Bowl have justified that appeal.

Audio Samples:

  1. Mo’s Art –
  2. Blackie and Max –
  3. Skipping –
  4. Lament –
  5. Gershwin Medley –
  6. Skeeball –
  7. All the Things You Are –
  8. Methane 5 –
  9. Bach Sonata in E Flat Movt. II –
  10. Libido –