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Phineas Newborn, Jr.

Phineas Newborn, Jr. was an American jazz pianist, whose principal influences were Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and Bud Powell. Newborn came from a musical family with his father being a blues musician and his brother (Edwin) Calvin Newborn (born April 27, 1933) being a jazz guitarist. Phineas studied piano as well as trumpet, and tenor and baritone saxophone.

Newborn first played in an R&B band led by his father (Phineas Newborn, Sr.), a drummer and with Tuff Green and his brother before moving on to work with Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, and others. His earliest recordings were with blues harmonica player Big Walter Horton.

From 1956 he began to perform in New York City, making his first album as a leader in that year. He created enough interest internationally to work as a single 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. He would make a partial comeback in the late 1970s and early 1980s, although this return apparently failed to benefit his financial situation as he is said to have been buried in a pauper's grave as no one would pay for his burial. Despite his setbacks many of his records, such as The Great Jazz Piano of Phineas Newborn, Jr, remain highly regarded. Leonard Feather once said of him "In his prime, he was one of the three greatest jazz pianists of all time.


Album Review

Phineas Newborn, Jr.: A World of Piano!

Read "A World of Piano!" reviewed by Richard J Salvucci

Did a critic ever accuse classical concert pianist Martha Argerich of displaying too much technique while playing Ravel? It is hardly an idle question as Argerich, one of the most gifted pianists in history, plays Ravel beautifully precisely because she has the technique to do so. She could not play “Sonatine" or “Gaspard de la Nuit"--fearsomely difficult, say pianists--if she did not. The beauty is inseparable from the technique; and the technique part of the beauty. This is ...

Radio & Podcasts

Stephanie Aaron and Phineas Newborn Jr.

Read "Stephanie Aaron and Phineas Newborn Jr." reviewed by Christy N Bennett

Chicago vocalist and voiceover artist Stephanie Aaron joins host Christy Bennett to discuss the life and career of pianist Phineas Newborn Jr. Mental health and the burden of early success are themes in the artist's life. ...

Radio & Podcasts

Phineas Newborn Jr. and Oscar Dennard

Read "Phineas Newborn Jr. and Oscar Dennard" reviewed by Joe Dimino

To commemorate the 600th full episode of Neon Jazz outta jny: Kansas City, we focus on the life of Memphis-born bass cat Jamil Nasser. His son, Muneer, penned his biography and it's called Upright Bass: The Musical Life & Legacy of Jamil Nasser. George Joyner, Jamil Sulieman, and Jamil Nasser are three names that appear on the records of Phineas Newborn, Lou Donaldson, Red Garland, and Ahmad Jamal. These names identify one jazz bassist, composer, and jazz advocate, who made ...

Album Review

Phineas Newborn, Jr.: Solo Piano

Read "Solo Piano" reviewed by AAJ Staff

When Nesuhi Ertegun perhaps serendipitously recorded Phineas Newborn, Jr. after Newborn had retreated to his hometown of Memphis in the mid-1970's, one of the founders of Atlantic Records helped to remind the jazz world of the overlooked potential of one of his generation's most promising, although perhaps not its most influential, pianists.

That's not to say that Newborn was without influence. Far from it. In fact, Harold Mabern and Geoff Keezer recorded a duo tribute to Newborn on Sackville recently. ...

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

A World of Piano!

Craft Recordings


We Three

Fantasy Jazz


Solo Piano

32 Records



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