The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture is to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Afro-Americans.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Legend: Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones is a traveler - a traveler on a more than 50-year journey through the music business, unlike that of any other musician. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Quincy and his brother frequently spent time with their grandmother in Louisville, OH. In 1943, their father, Quincy Sr separated from his wife Sarah and moved together with his boys to Sinclair Heights, WA where they met their stepmother Elvera. Aged 11, Quincy, together with some partners in crime, broke into a rec center, the Armory, where he discovered a piano. He played around with it, and was quickly fascinated with the possibilities music offered to him. He soon became a steady attendant of the Armory, joining an a cappella group named Challengers shortly thereafter.

In 1947 their father lost his job and moved the family to Seattle, where Quincy Jr hung out at a local jook joint and secretly listened to the blues bands playing there. One day the ... appeared, and little Quincy asked Clark Terry for trumpet lessons. This led to him making the acquaintance of the young Clint Eastwood and Ray Charles, who had just come all the way from Florida and was making a name for himself in the north. Quincy and Ray became friends, followed by Quincy enrolling in the James A. Garfield High School. He also happened to meet a guy named Charlie Taylor, who had just started on sax. The two decided to from a band, the Charlie Taylor Band. The boys were soon approached by a local lad named Bumps Blackwell, who played vibes and had various businesses running. The formation became the Bumps Blackwell Junior Band (later fronted by Ernestine Anderson). The band rehearsed hard and in 1948 even backed Billie Holiday at a local venue.

Quincy had started to write music himself and showed his first composition to members of Lionel Hampton's band who were passing through the city on tour. They were impressed, commented that he was on the right track, and informed their boss about the young talent. Hampton showed interest in the hopeful trumpet player and composer, inviting him to join his formation. Quincy was in heaven, and all ready to depart in the band's bus until Lionel's wife, Gladys became aware that the boy was still too young to go on tour with them.

Oscar Pettiford, a famous jazz bass player, also came through Seattle and Quincy showed him some of his arrangements, which impressed Pettiford a great deal. He promised to hire the young talent for his next recording, and indeed, four months later Quincy was invited to New York to write two arrangements for Oscar's next album. During that first stay in "the big apple" Quincy also briefly made acquaintance with Charlie Parker.

In 1950 Hampton remembered the young talent and when he came through Seattle with his band he re-invited the now 17 y.o. Quincy to join the band, whereupon he finally became a member of the Lionel Hampton Group. He had not only become a pretty good trumpet player in the meantime, but a steady composer and a gifted arranger who was able to fluently read and write musical scores. In 1953 the whole Hampton orchestra went on a major trip to Europe. During their stay in Stockholm, Sweden a few musicians were invited to join a jazz recording - among them of course Quincy - which had to take place secretly. All musicians of Lionel Hampton's group were strictly prohibited to engage in any side projects outside Hampton's own band, and so the participants had to steal away from their hotel at night in order to join the recordings. When the band returned to the US in December that year, Quincy and a few of his fellow musicians quit Hampton's group in order to pursue other directions of their careers.

In April '54 Quincy arranged and produced a first album for Clifford Brown and Helen Merrill, followed by hundreds of jobs for arrangement work, jingles and recordings for various acts including Dinah Washington. At that time Quincy earned $150 for each arrangement he penned. Through these works he had also come to the attention of Dizzy Gillespie, who asked him to join his group in 1955. Due to new legislation, Dizzy Gillespie's band was selected to tour Europe, Asia and South America by the US government, representing the American entertainment culture. At a venue in Turkey, Quincy made the acquaintance of Arif Mardin, who would later become a very successful producer in the States. After returning from these large tours in 1957, Quincy left Dizzy's group and was soon recruited as the musical director for Barclay Records in Paris.

In August 1957 he relocated to Paris and was soon hired to arrange and conduct an orchestra for a Frank Sinatra concert in Monaco (1958). Parallel to that Quincy was invited for private lessons in composition and arrangement by Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Here, Quincy could perfect his arrangement skills for strings and composition. Still residing in Paris, Quincy got the chance to arrange the Broadway musical St. Louis Woman, where 7-y.o. Patti Austin was also supposed to perform. Quincy put a band together for that occasion, but failed to meet the deadline for the production, which caused the demise of the project. However, by the end of '58 it was decided to tour Europe with this newly formed ensemble, as the Quincy Jones Band. Even though musically very successful, the project became a financial disaster and before too soon Quincy had to sell half of his own copyrights for $14,000 (which he would later have to buy back for a multiple price) in order to raise cash. By 1961 the band ceased to exist and Quincy had $145,000 of debts as a result of the "Free & Easy" tour.

In 1962 he became the first black Vice President of an international record label, Mercury Records. His productions were musically acclaimed, but at first failed to be successful in sales. Spurred by the spiteful nickname 'budget buster', Quincy signed Lesley Gore to Mercury, for whom he produced a string of hit singles and albums. Mercury offered him a $1 million contract, spanning twenty years, but Quincy declined. His intention was to move to California to concentrate more on film scores.

During the preparation to The Pawnbroker soundtrack he was called again by Frank Sinatra, who asked him to come to Hawaii and conduct ... for the forthcoming album It Might as Well Be Swing, plus join him on forthcoming Las Vegas engagements. When the two parted ways in 1964, the by now skilled arranger and composer was hired by Warner Brothers, where he would write more than twenty film and TV scores, among them the NBC TV series Ironside. The scores for the films Banning, In Cold Blood and For Love of Ivy brought him Academy Award nominations and In the Heat of the Night brought a Grammy for the best original score (1967). In 1968 he was hired for The Lost Man (1969) even before any of the actors were recruited. These activities went on until the end of the 60s, when Q. was really burnt out with the film and TV scoring. Just in time he was given the opportunity to record Walking in Space, which was one of the first real fusion albums, combining jazz, funk and soul influences.

In 1971 he successfully conducted at the Academy Awards, followed by a prestigious tribute show for Duke Ellington (shortly before his death) in May 1972, "Duke, We Love You". Phil Ramone served as the sound engineer for this show, where Quincy also met Anne Spielberg, the sister of not-yet-famous film director and producer Steven Spielberg. After this broadcast Quincy enrolled in the Black American Music movement pushed by Jesse Jackson, and performed various shows with the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, etc. Hereafter he joined a large US tour with Roberta Flack, conducting a 37-piece orchestra. 1974 saw the release of his next solo album, Body Heat, which won him two Grammys. Some now called him a traitor to jazz, because Quincy had left the jazz department and moved on to soul and funk, exemplified by the 1975 album Mellow Madness. Shortly after its release, Quincy became seriously ill with a dangerous Beri aneurysm (a lack of blood supply to the right brain side). He had to endure two life-threatening surgeries, which were successfully performed. What was prematurely planned as a funeral in September that year eventually became a celebration, with many stars attanding the event.

Quincy was then asked to compose for the TV series Roots: The Saga of an American Family, which became a much bigger success than anyone had imagined, again yielding three Grammys. Roots was directed by Steven Spielberg, who Quincy had become a good and close friend of in the meantime. After the successful Roots project, Q. directed the musical The Wiz which he claims he did reluctantly at first. The result of this involvement was that a participant in that musical, Michael Jackson, inquired of Quincy for advice about a producer for his forthcoming album. The two eventually decided that Quincy would produce the album, even though the people in charge at Epic were skeptical at first, thinking that Quincy was "too jazzy" for such a job. Off the Wall became a mega seller with more than 10 million copies sold - the most successful album Epic had published so far. Quincy's next project was to produce the next album of jazz guitarist George Benson, Give Me the Night. It turned out to be the commercially most successful release of Benson's extensive discography, opening the doors to a more soul-oriented market for him. Quincy next felt it was time to focus on a solo project, which resulted in The Dude (1981), which showcases many guest appearances and yielded seven Grammy wins.

Having made himself a big name as a highly successful music producer, Quincy now turned to produce the new album of his long-time protegé Patti Austin, who had already appeared on various of Q's productions. Every Home Should Have One contains the No. 1 hit single "Baby, Come to Me", a duet with another Q. discovery, James Ingram. Both, Austin and Ingram, had already sung the title song of the The Dude album, and so it was only logical to use the harmonic blend of these two singers' voices again. Directly after that Q. produced the next album of disco queen Donna Summer - her acclaimed self-titled 1982 release. For the 16-bar chorus on "State of Independence" Quincy invited many stars to sing, which most of them graciously did. Three years later he would re-invite most of those participants to join him on another project.

After the Donna Summer production, Michael Jackson and Quincy intended to prepare the next joint album, but Steven Spielberg approached Quincy and suggested he work on a musical storybook, accompanying his forthcoming film project E.T. Michael Jackson became involved in that as well, and the soundtrack album E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was produced (with Jackson singing the unused title-song). Unfortunately the involvement of Michael caused heated discussions between Universal Studios and Epic, who asked for a $1 million advance payment.

After E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was released in 1982 Quincy still found the time to produce the debut album for James Ingram. The album spawned the duet single of Ingram and Michael McDonald, "Yah Mo B There", which became a big worldwide hit and later won a R&B Grammy in 1984. Immediately after that the preparations for Thriller began. A duet between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, "The Girl is Mine", was released as a single first, intended to trigger maximum interest in Jackson's next long-player. All these efforts were rewarded with yet another Producer of the Year Grammy award for 1982. Despite little more than two months scheduled for the album's production, Quincy apparently did a satisfactory job: as of today, Thriller remains the world's biggest-selling album with more than 40 million copies sold and numerous awards. The single hits "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" culled from it are amongst the top ten best selling singles of the 80s.

Shortly after the successful launch of the Thriller album, in early 1984, an idea was suggested to Quincy by his long-time pal Harry Belafonte: inspired by Band Aid, Harry suggested a project to aid the starving people of Africa. With further help of various friends, the U.S.A. for Africa project was founded. The vocal recording saw more than 25 worldwide known artists participate in "We Are The World", including many who had been in the chorus for Donna Summer's "State of Independence". The whole project was conducted, produced and directed by Quincy. Only a few months later Sinatra's last "real" studio album was released, L.A. Is My Lady: again, fully produced by Quincy Jones, using the very best of L.A. session musicians. Q. also managed to co-record a second album for Patti Austin, her self-entitled Patti Austin.

Directly after the session for "We Are The World" was finished, Quincy had met up with Steven Spielberg. He had been approached to produce a film, The Color Purple, and wanted Steven to direct it. For that purpose Quincy Jones Entertainment was founded, which also covered Quest Records, Quincy's own record label. Tina Turner, who was asked to play the lead role in that movie, had declined. Everyone was skeptical whether Spielberg would agree, because Universal Pictures had Schindler's List waiting for him to direct, but he accepted, and The Color Purple became another big hit (both the film and the soundtrack album produced by Quincy). After its completion Q. co-produced a second album for James Ingram, Never Felt So Good, but the continued stress finally showed and caused a nervous breakdown in the middle of 1986: Quincy and Michael Jackson had just commenced discussing the follow-up album to Thriller, when Quincy realized that he wasn't up to following the preparations in detail. Q.'s old friend Marlon Brando suggested that he take sometime off at his resort on Tahiti, which Quincy accepted. After one month he had recuperated and felt fresh for new challenges.

In 1987, three years after the last long-player's release, Jackson's Bad hit the market. It was also the swansong of their collaboration, leaving Quincy to concentrate on other business directions and his next solo release, Back on the Block (1989) for which he hired many well-known artists such as Barry White, Melle Mel, Patti Austin, etc. In 1990, a fim documentary, Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones was released to great acclaim.

In 1993 Quincy helped launch the magazine Vibe (which focused on black music) and executive-produced the inauguration of president Bill Clinton, "An American Reunion". In 1995 he released Q's Jook Joint - an album of big band jazz with numerous guest appearances by modern musicians. In July 1998 Quincy's brother Lloyd died, which was a significant loss in Quincy's life. In October 2001 Q. issued his autobiographical book, accompanied by a 4-CD set, hand selected by Quincy and issued by Rhino Records.


Quincy Jones With The Swedish / U. S. All Stars (Prestige 1953)
This Is How I Feel About Jazz (ABC-Paramount 1957)
Go West Man (ABC-Paramount 1957)
The Birth Of A Band (Mercury 1959)
The Great Wide World Of Quincy Jones (Mercury 1960)
Quincy Jones At Newport '61 (Mercury 1961)
I Dig Dancers (Mercury 1961)
Around The World (Mercury 1961)
The Quintessence (Impulse 1961)*
Big Band Bossa Nova (Mercury 1962)
Quincy Jones Plays Hip Hits (Mercury 1963)
The Boy In The Tree (1963)
Quincy's Got A Brand New Bag (Mercury 1964)
Quincy Jones Explores The Music Of Henry Mancini (Mercury 1964)
Golden Boy (Mercury 1964)
The Pawnbroker (Mercury 1964)
Quincy Plays For Pussycats (Mercury 1965)
Walk Don't Run (Mainstream 1966)
The Slender Thread (Mercury 1966)
The Deadly Affair (Verve 1967)
Enter Laughing (Liberty 1967)
In The Heat Of The Night film soundtrack (United Artists 1967)
In Cold Blood film soundtrack (Colgems 1967)
Banning (1968)***, For The Love Of Ivy (ABC 1968)
The Split (1968)
Jigsaw (1968)
A Dandy In Aspic (1968)
The Hell With Heroes (1968)
MacKennas Gold (RCA 1969)
The Italian Job film soundtrack (Paramount 1969)
The Lost Man (1969)
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (Bell 1969)
John And Mary (A&M 1969)
Walking In Space (A&M 1969)
Gula Matari (A&M 1970)
The Out Of Towners (United Artists 1970)
Cactus Flower (Bell 1970)
The Last Of The Hot Shots (1970)
Sheila (1970)
They Call Me Mr Tibbs (United Artists 1970)
Smackwater Jack (A&M 1971)
The Anderson Tapes (1971)
Dollars (1971)
Man And Boy (1971)
The Hot Rock (Prophesy 1972)
Ndeda (Mercury 1972)
The New Centurians (1972)
Come Back Charleston Blue (Atco 1972)
You've Got It Bad Girl (A&M 1973)
Body Heat (A&M 1974)
This Is How I Feel About Jazz (Impulse 1974)
Mellow Madness (A&M 1975)
I Heard That! (A&M 1976)
Roots (A&M 1977)
Sounds And Stuff Like That (A&M 1978)
The Wiz (MCA 1978)
The Dude (A&M 1981)
The Color Purple film soundtrack (Qwest 1985)
Back On The Block (Qwest 1989)
Listen Up, The Lives Of Quincy Jones (Qwest 1990)
with Miles Davis Live At Montreux recorded 1991 (Reprise 1993)
Q's Jook Joint (Qwest 1995)
Basie and Beyond (Warner 2000)



Keith said...

He is definitely a legend and icon. Great write-up on him.

Candi said...

Hey! Just been listening to a cut-up of the man Quincy (called Stays Out of the Box) - and a Google brought me here! Great site, this post is great! Love the music here.

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