Phineas Newborn, Jr.

Phineas Newborn Jr. ( born December 14, 1931 in Whiteville, Hardeman County, Tennessee; † May 26, 1989 in Memphis, Tennessee) was an American jazz pianist and composer, who in a variety of styles, tonal and rhythmic ease and an immensely diverse sound possessed in his music. The jazz critic and author Leonard Feather Jazz said of him in 1964, he was the greatest living jazz pianist.


Newborn came from a musical family and began playing the piano at age six. His father was a drummer, and Newborn received lessons by the pianist of the band of the Father. Further studies at a high school in Memphis followed, and there he acquired knowledge of various brass instruments to. He additionally played vibraphone. In the army he also played various saxophones.

1948/49, ended Newborn his musical education, playing with trombonist Jimmy Cleveland and studied for a year at LeMoyne College in Memphis. During this time he also played with Louis Smith. He already played 1950/52 Lionel Hampton and 1953 Willis Jackson and then worked in Rhythm -and- blues bands. His military service lasted from 1953 until 1955. He then plays in the Rhythm'n'Blues his father's band with his brother Calvin on guitar.

Newborn had to leave a distinct dislike for the music profession Memphis. After Count Basie became aware of him and initiated his debut in New York, there is the anecdote that Basie dragged him to a concert in Brooklyn on stage and forced a standing program except appearance. With twenty-four years Newborn had a personal and jazzstilistisch fully mature sound, which was not repeated in its diversity today. He then still played 1955/56, with his own band, about 1956 in trio with Oscar Pettiford and Kenny Clarke or in a quartet in which Pettiford and Clarke or Philly Joe Jones and George Joyner played in the rhythm section and his brother Calvin guitar. He played 1957/8 with Charles Mingus in the soundtrack to the film Shadows by John Cassavetes. In 1958 he toured with jazz from Carnegie Hall ( with JJ Johnson, Kai Winding, Zoot Sims, Lee Konitz, Red Garland, Kenny Clarke and Oscar Pettiford ) by Europe (including England and Stockholm ) and played with own trio with Italian musicians in Rome. In 1959, he was with the Mills Brothers in Europe. From 1958 to the early 1960s, he played with own trio, which also includes the drummer Roy Haynes and Philly Joe Jones temporarily belonged. Health problems interrupted his career over again. After an interruption in the late 1960s he returned mid-1970s back in the music scene. He has played with Philly Joe Jones, Howard McGhee and Teddy Edwards.

His music

Newborns style is that of the modern swing pianist of jazz after bebop. He expanded the swing on the possibilities gained by the Bebop. As just Newborns sound reminiscent of the early Oscar Peterson, he also plays with the bassist Ray Brown and drummer Elvin Jones, Coltrane. As his influence he calls Art Tatum. Characteristic of Newborn are the use of parallel octaves for blazing fast runs, each distributed to the left and right hands. Similar to George Shearing In addition, he used masterfully perfected a block chord playing style, an imitation of the 5 -part saxophone set of Swing Big Band, in which the left hand doubles the melody of a four-part voicings right hand an octave lower.

Newborn has a strong safe support of the left hand, thoughtful middle voices, light melodies and free game pieces, heavy bass figures, rhapsodic Bays, and crossing expressionistic passages. His style sounds old-fashioned one hand, on the other hand he makes of it an advantage in that it builds on a melody and theme improvisation that venture into areas that are not familiar with other pianists.

His style is at the beginning of a development of jazz piano, composition with the African-American expression, influenced by gospel, blues, soul and rhythm and blues, together leads. It can be found boogie, stride piano, rhapsodic, Playful, ease of Gospel, rudimentary earthiness of the blues with European compositional accuracy connected.

It is its varied block chord style, for example, to Cheryl on A World of Piano! hear two choruses.

Newborns piano music is relatively unknown, but many now famous musicians are in close contact with his game, including the Marsalis clan, trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard. He will be greatly appreciated in artistic circles. The jazz pianist James Williams, Donald Brown, Harold Mabern, Mulgrew Miller, Geoff Keezer rely explicitly on him. His style is an independent approach, African-American creativity equal to European culture in the music bring. Therefore, for example, George Shearing composed the piece She ( She Means Everything To Me) for Newborn. What he started is a reliable highly resilient foundation that is being developed today again increased.


  • Phineas Rainbow, RCA Jazz Classics 1995, recorded in 1956, also with Latin percussion
  • We Three 1958 with Roy Haynes, Paul Chambers
  • The Newborn Touch, Contemporary Records / OJC, 1963
  • Harlem Blues, Contemporary, with Ray Brown, Elvin Jones
  • A World of Piano!, 1961
  • Send Me Somebody to Love in the same occupation, Contemporary
  • Phineas Is Back, Pablo Records