Phineas Jr. Newborn

Born December 14, 1931 in Whiteville (Tennessee) and died May 26, 1989 in Memphis. He was an American jazz pianist whose main influences were Art Tatum. Newborn was raised in a musical family, his father being a blues musician, and his brother Edwin (born April 27, 1933), being a jazz guitarist. Phineas was a trumpeter, tenor, and baritone saxophonist.
Newborn was first a member of a R&B band that his father, Phineas Snr, led. He also played drums with Tuff Green and his brother, before moving on to work for Charles Mingus and Lionel Hampton. His first recordings were made with Big Walter Horton, a blues harmonica player.

He began performing in New York City in 1956 and made his first album in that year as a leader. Internationally, he was able to perform as a soloist in Stockholm in 1958 and Rome in the following year.

He then moved to Los Angeles in 1960 and recorded a series of piano trio albums on the Contemporary label. Some critics found Newborn’s playing too easy, so he was admitted to the Camarillo state mental hospital for some time. His playing was also affected by a hand injury.

Due to his ongoing health issues, Newborn’s later career was sporadic. The most notable time he disappeared from public view was the period between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. In the late 1970s and 1980s, he would make a partial return. However, this did not seem to help his financial situation. He is believed to have been buried in an unpaid pauper’s tomb because no one would pay for him burial. Many of his records, including The Great Jazz Piano Of Phineas, Jr., are still highly regarded despite his setbacks. Leonard Feather once stated of him, “In his prime he was one the three greatest jazz pianos of all-time.” Text contributed by users is available under Creative Commons By–SA License. It may also be available under GNU FDL.

Leave a Comment