Other than two numbers cut for the Progressive label in Houston a couple years earlier (and thus far never reissued), this Atlantic session (put out as a Koch CD in 1999) was the recording debut for the remarkable Phineas Newborn. The 24-year-old pianist's playing on this trio/quartet date with bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Kenny Clarke (and occasionally guitarist Calvin Newborn) is virtuosic to say the least, on Oscar Peterson's level if not Art Tatum's. Newborn rips through the repertoire (which is highlighted by "Barbados," "Celia," "Daahoud," and "Afternoon in Paris"); try to tap your foot to "Celia" without breaking your ankle! In the liner notes, George Wein faults Newborn's tendency to double time the ballads, and some listeners may shake their heads at his constant outpouring of technically impossible runs (those speedy octaves are ridiculous) – but if one has chops on this level, one should feel free to display them. This is a dazzling debut from an ill-fated but classic pianist, and this CD is a gem.
This CD reissue adds an alternate take and an unissued selection to the original program. Pianist Phineas Newborn's only recording of the 1963-68 period, the trio outing with bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Frank Butler, finds Newborn's virtuosic style unchanged from the late '50s. As is usual on his Contemporary recordings, the pianist explores superior jazz compositions, in this case interpreting a song apiece by Benny Carter, Russ Freeman, Hampton Hawes, Art Pepper, Ornette Coleman ("The Blessing"), Carl Perkins, Frank Rosolino, Leroy Vinnegar, Jimmy Woods and Barney Kessel. Newborn's remarkable control of the piano was still unimpaired, and he is heard giving Oscar Peterson a run for his money.Scott Yanow