World of Slick Music
– Quincy Jones
This time it’s been several weeks since last post quess i’m getting more and more lazy…or i’m just busy doing other stuff. Anyway today i’m gonna write about perhaps the biggest legend with showbiz today, a guy whose career spans over 6 decades! As you can see on today’s headline today’s artist in none else than Quincy Jones!
So what can i say about this man that no one including himself hasn’t already been saying? Do i of all people been giving some very very exclusive stuff never shared before? I’m sure you all know the answer to that question…offcourse i don’t! To try covering everything he has done with everyone would like take forever so i’ll think i pass on that. We’ll just see how much i will cover.
Anyway it all began in 1933, on the South Side of Chicago, to Sarah Frances (née Wells) (1903-1999) and Quincy Delightt Jones, Sr (1895-1971). His father was a semi professional basket player and a carpenter from Kentucky. They had gone to Chicago as part of the Great Migration out of the South. Sarah was a bank officer and apartment complex manager. The music came early in his life since his mother used to sing spirtual/religious songs home along with next door neighbour Lucy Jackson. When he was five or six, Jackson played stride piano next door, and he would always listen through the walls. Lucy Jackson recalled that after he heard her that one day, she could not get him off her piano if she tried.
After the war Quincy moved with his family to Seattle where he attended high school near his home. He had discovered music when he was 12 and became more deeply involved in high school, developing his skills as a trumpeter and arranger. He found a friend in classmate Charles Taylor who played the saxophone and the two guys began playing with a band. At the age of 14 they were playing with a National Reserve band. Quincy says growing up in a smaller town got him to experience much more of music than living in bigger city due to the competition. When he was 14 he introduced himself to a 16 year old blind guy called Ray Charles…yes THE Ray Charles and they instantly became best friends! In 1951 he won a scholarship to Seattle University where a young Clint Eastwood, yes THE actor/director/producer, – also a music major there – watched him play in the college band.
After only one semester Quincy was transferred to what now is the Berklee College of Music in Boston on a another scholarship (as of 2016, Jones’ application for admission is preserved on display at Berklee). While on beeing a student on Berklee he played at Izzy’s Bar & Grille with Bunny Campbell and Preston Sandiford. Quincy’s main instrument was trumpet and as a young kid he took lessons from the legendary trumpet player Clark Terry whom said in an interview that he wasn’t so impressed with Quincy! Anyway he left his studies when he was offered to join vibes (vibraphone) player Lionel Hampton on tour as a trumpet player. And this is where his musical career got started. While touring with Lionel he began to realize that his best skills was actually not as a musician but arranger. He relocated to New York City and here got to work with some of greatest names within jazz music such as long time friend Ray Charles, Gene Krupa (drums), Dinah Washington (vocals), Sarah Vaughan (vocals), Count Basie, Duke Ellington perhaps the two most legendary names when it comes to beeing band leaders within big band/swing jazz.
He said touring in Europe with Lionel Hampton and said it turned him upside down, altering his view of racism in the USA.
“It gave you some sense of perspective of past, present and future. It took the myopic conflict between just black and white in the United States and put it on another level because you saw the turmoil between the Armenians and the Turks, and the Cypriots and the Greeks, and the Swedes and the Danes, and the Koreans and the Japanese. Everybody had these hassles, and you saw it was a basic part of human nature, these conflicts. It opened my soul, it opened my mind.”
Through out the 50’s he contiued touring across both America and Europe with different orchestras. With musicians from the Arlen show, Jones formed his own big band, called The Jones Boys, with eighteen artists. The band included double bass player Eddie Jones and fellow trumpeter Reunald Jones, and organized a tour of North America and Europe. Though the European and American concerts met enthusiastic audiences and sparkling reviews, concert earnings could not support a band of this size. Poor budget planning resulted in an economic disaster; the band dissolved and the fallout left Jones in a financial crisis. Quoted in Musician magazine, Jones said about the ordeal,
“We had the best jazz band on the planet, and yet we were literally starving. That’s when I discovered that there was music, and there was the music business. If I were to survive, I would have to learn the difference between the two.”
Irving Green, head of Mercury Records, helped Jones with a personal loan and a new job as the musical director of the company’s New York division. There he worked with Doug Moody, who founded Mystic Records. In 1964 he was invited by movie director Sidney Lumet to compose the music for the movie The Pawnbroker. It was the first of his 33 major motion picture scores. During the 60’s he got to work some other icons such as Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstine (singer/band leader), Nana Mouskouri (vocals), Peggy Lee (vocals), iconic and legendary jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald. Besides his solo albums gained acclaim. In 1975 he founded his own label/production company and artists like Frank Sinatra, George Benson (guitar,vocals), Donna Summer, Patti Austin, Aretha Franklin, James Ingram, Rufus & Chaka Khan were all produced by Quincy.
In 1978, he produced the soundtrack for The Wiz, the musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. And this leads us to the very peak of Quincy’s career, at least if you measure by the amount of sold albums. Michael Jackson were ready to take the next step of his career to reach to the absolute top. He had been working with the legendary Philadelphia songwriting duo Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. When the news reached the business that Quincy was to produce the next album with Michael Jackson everyone was very sceptical to say the least! Not that they had anything bad to say about Quincy himself but they thought of him as a typical jazz cat who didn’t know popular music. First album with Michael was Off the Wall released in 1978 with some of the finest cats of Los Angeles.
In 1975 on a flight between Chicago and Los Angeles Quincy met Chaka Khan and they immediately found eachother and expressed their mutual admiration for eachother and a desire to work together. That took place in 1977 when Chaka was singing on the Quincy album Sounds…& Stuff Like That and the next year he produced the album Masterjam with Rufus & Chaka Khan. After seeing this band live Quincy went forward to talk to the guys after the show. He asked the rhythm section if they did some gigs outside Rufus, they said yes so when Quincy was about to do the Off the Wall album with Michael he hired John “JR” Robinson (drums), Bobby Watson (bass) and David “Hawk” Wolinski (keyboards) to play. JR Robinson then became of Quincy’s favorite drummers whom he often hired.
The first album from Michael produced by Quincy was a huge success but it was nothing comparing what was about to come with the next album in 1982…yes the biggest selling album of all time, Thriller! It has reputed sold a 110 million copies world wide. Starting in the late 70’s Quincy tried to convince legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis to revive the music he had recorded on several classic albums in the 60’s, which had been arranged by Gil Evans. n 1991, Davis, then suffering from pneumonia, relented and agreed to perform the music at a concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The resulting album from the recording, Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux, was Davis’ last released album (he died several months afterward). It is considered an artistic triumph.
The music that got Quincy in the business in the first place was the big band jazz/swing and towards the end of the 90’s he was contacted by his old friend and band leader/arranger Sammy Nestico. He reminded Quincy about a project they had been discussing back and forward over the years, an album with the kind of music that got them in the business in the first place. The album was released in 2000 and it’s called Basie & beyond and it’s kinda a dedication to Count Basie and the music he did. In the liner notes Quincy writes that Sammy was really telling him “hey man none of us are getting younger so let’s do one last album with the kind of music that got us in the business in the first place!” They did the recordings in the old style live with a huge big band and the drums in a booth. To make a album of this there’s only one place to do it, the classic and legendary Capitol Studios in L.A. Here Sinatra and those guys did many of their albums.
Further Quincy writes about the sessions that the musicians became like kids on christmas, when they saw so many of themselves gathering together at the same place and the same sessions they began taking photos of eachother! Quincy describes it like “wow are you also here?! Hey man take a pic of us here and so on!”. If you’re not familiar with solo projects of Quincy it’s a mix of soul/funk, jazz/swing/fusion, hip hop from the late 80’s and forward. Can’t say i embrace and like everything he has done but i gotta give him cred and respect for adapting to new moments and trying out new paths. Quincy has received none less than 79 Grammy Award nominations and von 27, last one came 2002 in the Best Spoken Word Album category for Q: The Autobiography Of Quincy Jones.
Some other projects worth mentioning he has been involved is offcourse the U.S. for Africa project and the song “We Are The World” which he produced and received a Grammy for. Another project is Handel’s Messiah – A Soulful Celebration. This album is a celelbration of the history of black music but also taking the music George Handel wrote in the 18th century and bring in to the 20th century. I’m sure you have heard at some point the so called “Hallejuah chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. This album ends with that song but it’s like updated to a soul gospel version á la 90’s. Quincy was concucting the choir here and it consisted of like every black Gospel, R&B/Soul singer both male and female that was around at that time. So basically Quincy has worked with everyone in the entire music business both musicians and singers. When Quincy wants your services you accept. Take the classic song Billie Jean from the Thriller album the guitar solo is made by Eddie van Halen, one amazing guitarist but the first name you think of when recording a Michael Jackson album. If you’re not familiar with Eddie he is basically one of the most acknowledged hardrock/heavy metal guitarists.
As i mentioned in the beginning to cover everything this guy has done or accomplished would take me lots and lots of time…and not sure if anyone would manage to read everything without falling a sleep or give up. So let’s end here while you still, i hope, are awake. The song i’ve choosed is taken from the album from 1981 called “The Dude” and it’s an instrumental written by brazilian singer/songwriter Ivan Lins along with a guy called Victor Martins. This song features another long time friend of Quincy, the legendary Harmonica player Jean “Toots” Thielemans.
Finally as always enjoy your listening!!
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