Archive for September 9th, 2017

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Phineas Newborn Jr

September 9, 2017

Amazing jazz musician

I’ve been reading about Phineas Newborn Jr and very impressed. Seems so unfair that he was such an accomplished musician but didn’t get the recognition he deserved. For those of you who may not be familiar with his work…

Mr. Newborn was born in Whiteville, Tennessee in 1931. He was born into a musical family, his father was a drummer and brother a jazz guitarist. He studied piano, trumpet, tenor and baritone saxophone. He first played in an R&B band led by his dad, with his brother on guitar. Joining them were Tuff Green on bass, Ben Branch and Willie Mitchell. They were the house bank at Plantation Inn Club in West Memphis, Arkansas from 1947 to 51. In 49 they recorded as B.B. King’s band and as the Sun Records sessions in 50.

He started performing in New York and made his first album as a leader in 1956. He had trios and quartets that included Oscar Pettiford, Kenny Clarke, George Joyner, and Philly Joe Jones. He became known far and wide and worked as a solo pianist in Stockholm in 58 and Rome in 59.

At age 29 in 1960 he performed “It’s Alright with Me” on the ABC-TV series Music for a Spring Night. Soon afterwards he moved to Los Angeles and recorded piano trio albums for the Contemporary label. The critics were harsh and Newborn ended up in a state mental hospital with emotional problems. He also injured his hand which impacted his playing.

Dues to his ongoing health problems his career was interrupted and he faded from view. Unfortunately, he was not appreciated to the level that his musical talents afforded. He came back in the 70s and 80s but it wasn’t enough. In 1989 doctors discovered a growth on his lungs and he passed away.

Thankfully there are many recordings found on YouTube (and other locations) where we can appreciate his amazing work. Below is one of them!

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