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Phineas Newborn Transcription, Sugar Ray

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!)

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Full PDF: SugarRay.

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.

And here’s the track itself


ERRATA: mistakes that have not been corrected:

  1. Last eighth note in the left hand of measure 12 should be a Db not an E natural
  2. Measure 8: right-hand chord on the and of three, bottom note should be a Db not a C

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


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