Phineas Newborn was the pianist’s pianist. He died way too young and only recorded a few albums, all of them gems. I spent some time transcribing the “head” to his tune “Sugar Ray” from the Roy Haynes 1958 masterpiece We Three. As I neared the end of this ordeal, I wondered if someone else had already done the same. Google, Google. Sure enough an Italian pianist out of NYC named Marco di Gennaro had already beat me to it. My version differs in two slight ways. One, I was too lazy to write out his fills at the end of the head and two, I include the solo changes. So if you want a more complete head transcription, visit Marco’s site (I just wanted to be sure credit is given where it’s due!)

Sugar Ray by Phineas Newborn
Sugar Ray by Phineas Newborn

Here’s a recording of the transcribed excerpt:

Here’s a link to the PDF: Sugar Ray

The magic is in the block-chords from bars 8-16. It’s a study in drop-2 voicings, which is the pattern of playing through a scale chordally, alternating between diminished 7ths and minor 6ths. Pianist Mark Levine has written an entire book on this technique. But here it is in full glory as only Phineas could play it.


NOTE: if you find this transcription useful, feel free to post a comment!