Phineas Newborn Jr A World of Piano (1961) Contemporary

Track Selection 1: Dahoud (Clifford Brown)  w/ Chambers/Philly Joe

Selection 2: Oleo (Sonny Rollins)  – w/ Sam Jones/Hayes

Artists

Phineas Newborn Jr. (p) Paul Chambers or Sam Jones (b) Philly Joe Jones or Louis Hayes (d) recorded Contemporary Records’ Studio, Los Angeles, CA, October 16 & November 21st , 1961 recording engineers Howard Holzer and Roy DuNann

Music

Newborn was a talented pianist in jazz scene crowded with many talented pianists. Against the towering figures of Monk, Bud Powell and Bill Evans, if you were not a giant you had to compete with everyone: Red Garland, Hank Jones, Wynton Kelly, Horace Silver, Elmo Hope, Mal Waldron, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Hampton Hawes, Jaki Byard, Herbie Nichols, Bobby Timmons, Barry Harris, George Wallington, Freddie Redd, Kenny Drew, Junior Mance, Carl Perkins, Horace Parlan, the list is long and must have kept an industry of piano teachers in employment. His career was limited not by lack of talent but perhaps by not finding the right long-term musical partnership, like Mingus and Byard, Blakey and Timmons, Garland with Davis and Coltrane. The other instruments in the rhythm section seem a less crowded field, and are more portable.

In response to his remarkable technical accomplishments, critics labelled Phineas as “a cold technician”, too good for just comping in the rhythm section, but not up there with the giants as a leader. His trademark was to dazzle, executing  absurdly fast runs following one another in quick succession, and scattering notes in every direction. He can be exhausting but selectively, also rewarding.

The “rhythm sections” on these sessions are peerless – Paul Chambers and Philly Joe on one side, Hank Jones and Roy Haynes the other. You get two track selections – one of each. Chambers name particularly comes up so often in the artist credits  tags on this blog it puts him up as one of the topics most frequently written about. Was a busy man.

The liner notes helpfully advise Newborn preferred his name pronounced “Fine – us, with the accent on the first syllable”. You wouldn’t want to make a faux-pas (this week’s French bon mot) when talking in hep-circles about Finnyus Newborn. Everyone would know immediately, in the immortal words of Cannonball Adderley, “ you are just acting hip, not truly being hip, you know what I’m sayin’?

Vinyl: ZB 8071 – Origin: unknown ( Contemporary M 3600)

Another mystery. I can’t find any reference to the ZB issue number which has been hastily inserted onto the cover (unmatching font). Pressed on 168gm vintage vinyl – this is no modern reissue or clone, this is a vintage heavy vinyl mono pressing from an original Contemporary Lester Koenig LKL matrix, no funny business in the deadwax. The liner notes sport a coloured font inset panel characteristic of US Contemporary releases of the day, and the unlaminated cover is fairly flimsy card, also a Contemporary feature, if that is the right word.

The bottom half of the label,  where it usually says in large type “RECORDS” or for European releases “Vogue”,  is left blank, which makes me think it is an export pressing, possibly manufactured for US Forces based overseas – I have read elsewhere these things were done sometimes to sidestep application of local sales taxes (in the same fashion as white label promotional copies “not for sale” had no sales tax) I put this in my database under WTF? pressings, but it sounds every bit as good as you might expect from master engineer Roy DuNann.

(If you have any clues about its origin, feel free to comment)

Collectors Corner:

London record store, glad to know this also had the jazz expert stumped as to its origin, so it was labelled simply “Jazz LP” and very modestly priced. Overdosing a little on saxophone players recently, I thought time for a little variety. One of those days when you arrive home with a lot of interesting stuff but nothing to shout from the rooftops. That’s how it goes in collecting. There will be something around the next corner. Plenty to listen to on the shelves, rediscover old friends, and make some new ones, it is always surprises me how much your tastes move around the more you listen.

9 thoughts on “Phineas Newborn Jr A World of Piano (1961) Contemporary

  1. hank jones and roy haynes would indeed be interesting accompaniment to phineas on side 2 (as is written in the article) but as one can see in the photos, it was sam jones and louis hayes.

  2. I’ve met only a few people who know he was. I remember reading the liner to Here is Phineas (“He cuts Oscar. He leaves Tatum standing still!”) and figured it was lush press writing. After I listened, it was hard to believe Newborn didn’t have six fingers on each hand. I like your description, though… technically brilliant, too good to just cram into anyone’s rhythm section, and ultimately a guy who never found the right band to mix with. Those were wild times for new ideas and ‘dazzling’ alone wasn’t enough. I have also found his albums in cutout bins seemingly ignored. Thanks for posting.
    Chris

  3. I have two albums with the same sort of flimsy covers and identical flip-overs and they are from South Africa. The ones I have though, clearly say “Made in South Africa”, I have not found any mention to S.A. on this one.

  4. Newborn is nicely represented in my collection. The Contemporary sessions were wonderful – especially Harlem Blues (my fav) and all sound superb. Please Send Me Someone to Love is also exceptional. I recall he made a Pablo LP or two that were nice.

  5. He suffered from alcoholism, as well as intermittent mental health problems, which kept him out of studios for years at a time. He was also brutally attacked in the mid-70s, which led to physical problems. All of which is a shame, because he was gifted when he was able to keep it together. His first record for Atlantic, and Phineas’ Rainbow for RCA, are both absolute gems.

  6. Like your style. So helpful ! Serious and sick 🙂 I’m so caught up in the world of Bill Evans, I forget about the others. Things to ponder, here.

    • Every musician has a different voice, something different to offer, but if you would have just the one, Evans is a good choice. There was a sign at an airport cafe this evening which seems appropriate here. “Life is Uncertain. Eat dessert first”

  7. hope everybody likes this cat, I warmly recommend.
    he had nervous problems and didn’t record so much.
    but he could swing.

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