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Phineas Newborn, Jr. Trio: Tivoli Encounter

When Newborn emerged on the national scene in 1956 he was hailed as a coming superstar because of his great chops. His facility when playing the same lines simultaneously with both hands particularly impressed people. Newborn was always fun to listen to when he cut loose and was identifiable because very few pianists could play with his speed, and his octave unison work was also a trademark. However, beyond this he never developed a distinctive style. Bud Powell’s influence on him is apparent and his work is also similar to Oscar Peterson’s, although this may be because both he and Peterson drew on the same influences.

His career was hampered for some time by mental illness, leading to hospital stays and marital problems. While this was going on he fell from public view, but still managed to keep his career going and made some appearances and recordings in Europe prior to his 1989 death, such as this one where he’s backed by bassist Jasper Lundgaard and drummer Bjarne Rostvold. By that time he’d absorbed ideas from other pianists including Red Garland. He’s still got a lot of facility, but his work is sometimes heavy-handed and contains too many cliches. As a younger man he played more cleanly and subtly. Still, this recording has interesting stretches and those who enjoy hearing technically facile pianists may be impressed with it.

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