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Phineas Newborn, Jr.: Here Is Phineas

Praised in some quarters for his “fabulous technique” and damned in others for his “lack of feeling,” Phineas (say “Finus”) Newborn, Jr. burst onto the NYC scene from Memphis like a sky rocket. Recorded in 1956 with his brother Calvin (unobtrusively) on guitar, Oscar Pettiford, and Kenny Clarke, this was made while Newborn was working opposite the Brown-Roach Quintet at Basin Street, which probably accounts for the inclusion of Brownie’s “Dahoud.”

Like Bud Powell’s “Celia” and “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” it’s taken at a supersonic tempo, which seems to have annoyed the “no feeling” contingent. Oscar Peterson, on the other hand, told Len Lyon (in The Great Jazz Pianists) that Newborn was “the best all-around pianist of anyone who’s followed me chronologically, unequivocally,” and who wants to argue with that? Newborn’s slow, solo “Newport Blues” and his rubato intro to “All the Things You Are” and “Celia” are chief among the highlights of this 23-year-old’s debut.

Originally Published