Phineas Newborn Jr.
|Phineas Newborn Jr.|
December 14, 1931|
Whiteville, Tennessee, U.S.
May 26, 1989 (aged 57)|
Newborn came from a musical family: his father, Phineas Newborn Sr., was a drummer in blues bands, and his younger brother, Calvin, a jazz guitarist. Phineas was born in Whiteville, Tennessee. He studied piano as well as trumpet, and tenor and baritone saxophone.
Before moving on to work with Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, and others, Newborn first played in an R&B band led by his father on drums, with his brother Calvin on guitar, Tuff Green on bass, Ben Branch and future Hi Records star Willie Mitchell. The group was the house band at the now famous Plantation Inn Club in West Memphis, Arkansas, from 1947 to 1951, and recorded as B. B. King's band on his first recordings in 1949, as well as the Sun Records sessions in 1950. They left West Memphis in 1951 to tour with Jackie Brenston as the "Delta Cats" in support of the record "Rocket 88", recorded by Sam Phillips and considered by many to be the first ever rock & roll record (it was the first Billboard No. 1 record for Chess Records).
Among his earliest recordings, from the early 1950s, are those for Sun Records with blues harmonica player Big Walter Horton, We Three (as a trio with drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Paul Chambers), and his debut as a solo artist on RCA Victor, Phineas' Rainbow.
From 1956, Newborn began to perform in New York City, making his first album as a leader in that year. His trios and quartets at that time included Oscar Pettiford, Kenny Clarke, George Joyner and Philly Joe Jones. Newborn created enough interest internationally to work as a solo pianist in Stockholm in 1958 and in Rome the following year.
On March 16, 1960, 29-year-old Newborn replaced Thelonious Monk and performed "It's All Right with Me" on the ABC-TV series Music for a Spring Night. Newborn moved to Los Angeles that year, and recorded a sequence of piano trio albums for the Contemporary label. However, some critics found his playing style rather facile, and Newborn developed emotional problems as a result, necessitating his admission to the Camarillo State Mental Hospital for some periods. He also suffered a hand injury which hindered his playing.
Newborn's later career was intermittent due to ongoing health problems. This is most true of the period from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s when he faded from view, underappreciated and underrecorded. He made a partial comeback in the late 1970s and early 1980s, although this return apparently failed to benefit his financial situation. He died in 1989 after the discovery of a growth on his lungs and was buried in Memphis National Cemetery.
According to jazz historian Nat Hentoff, Newborn's plight spurred the 1989 founding of the Jazz Foundation of America, a group dedicated to helping with the medical bills and other financial needs of retired jazz greats. In the early 1990s the four-player Contemporary Piano Ensemble was formed by pianists Harold Mabern, James Williams, Mulgrew Miller, and Geoff Keezer to pay tribute to Newborn; it recorded two albums and toured internationally.
Despite his setbacks, many of Newborn's records, such as The Great Jazz Piano of Phineas Newborn Jr., Phineas' Rainbow, and Harlem Blues remain highly regarded. Jazz commentator Scott Yanow referred to Newborn as "one of the most technically skilled and brilliant pianists in jazz." Evidence of his technical prowess can be heard on tracks such as "Sometimes I'm Happy", from the album Look Out – Phineas Is Back!, on which Newborn performs extended, complex, and brisk solos with both hands in unison. Leonard Feather said of him, "In his prime, he was one of the three greatest jazz pianists of all time." Oscar Peterson said, "If I had to choose the best all-around pianist of anyone who's followed me chronologically, unequivocally ... I would say Phineas Newborn, Jr."
|1956||Here Is Phineas||Atlantic||Quartet, with Calvin Newborn (g), Oscar Pettiford (b), Kenny Clarke (d). LP 1235|
|1956||Phineas' Rainbow||RCA Victor||Quartet, with Calvin Newborn (g), George Joyner (b), Philly Joe Jones (d). LPM 1421|
|1957||While My Lady Sleeps||RCA Victor||Trio and String Section, with George Joyner (b), Alvin Stoller (d) and strings arranged and conducted by Dennis Farnon. LPM 1474|
|1957||Phineas Newborn Jr. Plays Harold Arlen's Music from Jamaica||RCA Victor||With orchestra: Ernie Royal (tp), Nick Ferrante (tp), Jimmy Cleveland (tb), Sahib Shihab (as, bars, cl, bcl), Jerome Richardson (ts, fl), Les Spann (g), George Duvivier (b), Osie Johnson (d), Francisco Pozo and Willie Rodriguez (per). LPM 1589|
|1958||Fabulous Phineas||RCA Victor||Quartet, with Calvin Newborn (g), George Joyner (b), Denzil Best (d). LPM 1873|
|1958||Phineas Newborn Plays Again!||Edizioni Dell'Isola (Italy)||Trio, with Carlo Loffredo (b), Sergio Pisi (d). EIJ 2024 - released 1978|
|1958||Stockholm Jam Session Volume 1||SteepleChase||Sextet, with Benny Bailey (t), Oscar Pettiford (b) Rune Carlsson (d). SCCD-36025 - released 1992|
|1958||Stockholm Jam Session Volume 2||SteepleChase||Sextet, with Benny Bailey (t), Oscar Pettiford (b) Rune Carlsson (d). SCCD-36026 - released 1993|
|1959||Piano Portraits by Phineas Newborn||Roulette||Trio, with John Simmons (b) and Roy Haynes (d). R 52031|
|1959||I Love a Piano||Roulette||Trio, with John Simmons (b) and Roy Haynes (d). R 52043|
|1961||A World of Piano!||Contemporary||Trios, with Paul Chambers (b), Philly Joe Jones (d); Sam Jones (b), Louis Hayes (d). S7600|
|1961||The Great Jazz Piano of Phineas Newborn Jr.||Contemporary||Trios, with Leroy Vinnegar (b), Milt Turner (d); Sam Jones (b), Louis Hayes (d). S-7611|
|1964||The Newborn Touch||Contemporary||Trio, with Leroy Vinnegar (b), Frank Butler (d). S7615|
|1969||Please Send Me Someone to Love||Contemporary||Trio, with Ray Brown (b), Elvin Jones (d). S 7622|
|1969||Harlem Blues||Contemporary||Trio, with Ray Brown (b) and Elvin Jones (d). C 7634 - released 1975|
|1974||Solo Piano||Atlantic||Solo. SD 1672|
|1975||Solo||L+R (Germany)||Solo. CDLR 45020 - released 1990|
|1976||Back Home||Contemporary||Trio, with Ray Brown (b), Elvin Jones (d). C 7648|
|1976||Look Out - Phineas Is Back!||Pablo||Trio, with Ray Brown (b), Jimmie Smith (d). 2310-801|
|1977||Phineas Is Genius||Philips (Japan)||Trio, with Allen Jackson (b), Clarence Johnston (d). RJ-7420|
|1979||Tivoli Encounter||Storyville (Denmark)||Trio, with Jesper Lundgaard (b), Bjarne Rostvold (d). STCD 8221|
|1986||C Jam Blues||Paddle Wheel (Japan)||Trio, with Ray Brown (b), Marvin "Smitty" Smith (d). 22OR-50511|
|1987||I've Something to Say||EmArcy (Japan)||Trio, with Jamil Nasser (b) Tony Reedus (d). 20PJ-10148|
|1958||Oscar Pettiford||First Bass||Quintet and trio, with Lee Konitz (as), Zoot Sims (ts), Kenny Clarke (b). Live recordings released 1995 IAJRC CD 1010|
|1958||Roy Haynes||We Three||Trio, with Paul Chambers (b). New Jazz NJLP 8210|
|1959||Young Men from Memphis||Down Home Reunion||Octet and quartet, with Booker Little (t), Louis Smith (t), Frank Strozier (as), George Coleman (ts), Calvin Newborn (g), George Joyner (b), Charles Crosby (d). United Artists UAL 4029|
|1961||Howard McGhee & Teddy Edwards||Together Again!!!!||Quintet, with Ray Brown (b), Ed Thigpen (d). Contemporary M 3588|
|1961||Howard McGhee||Maggie's Back in Town!!||Quartet, with Leroy Vinnegar (b), Shelly Manne (d). Contemporary M 3596|
|1961||Helyne Stewart||Love Moods||Quartet, with Teddy Edwards (ts, arr), Leroy Vinnegar (b), Milt Turner (d). Contemporary M 3601|
|1961||Teddy Edwards||Good Gravy!||Quartet, with Leroy Vinnegar (b), Milt Turner (d). Contemporary M 3592|
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