Phineas Newborn Jr.
Phineas Newborn Jr.
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 he 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. He created enough interest internationally to work as a solo pianist in Stockholm in 1958 and in Rome the following year. Subsequently moving to Los Angeles around 1960, he 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 and Phineas' Rainbow, remain highly regarded.
Jazz commentator Scott Yanow even 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" on Look Out - Phineas is Back! where Newborn performs extended, complex, and brisk solos with both hands in unison. Leonard Feather once said of him "In his prime, he was one of the three greatest jazz pianists of all time." Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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