Friday, September 25, 2009


"Imagine what a harmonious world it could be if every single person, both young and old shared a little of what he is good at doing." ~Quincy Jones

79 Grammy nominations, 27 Grammys… yet still not entirely a household name. What’s with that?

When Michael Jackson’s Thriller hit the scene, it might have been Jackson’s name on the marquee, but without doubt Quincy Jones, his producer/arranger, helped put him there. In fact, his whole career has been one of cheerfully adjusting the spotlights that shone on other performers, to put them in their best light.

We all remember the charity performance of superstars assembled for “We Are The World”, but few recall that it was Quincy Jones who produced and arranged the assemblage of superegos, and made it work. Who among us does not recall the shocking In Cold Blood, yet few know that Jones produced the score that set the tone.

Q, The Autobiography of Quincy Jones, is an anecdotally rich portrait of a creative genius and good natured soul who made good in America against heavy odds. If you want an inside look at the black experience mid-century, read Q. If you want an ringside seat as the jazz scene came to full flower, read Q. If you want up close and personal stories about what it takes to rise above circumstances and achieve success beyond one's dreams, this book reveals that, too.

I only have one Frank Sinatra CD, the Quincy Jones produced L.A. Is My Lady. The arrangements are stellar, making it possible for the elder statesman crooner to shine. Jones is the catalyst, setting the stage, the mood, the lights, never drawing attention to himself but serving to make every moment count. I was listening to it last as I tried my hand at painting the pictures of Jones here.

Here’s a little serendipitous note: the night before I was watching Rear Window, the Hitchcock thriller starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. Few know that it was Princess Grace (Kelly) who introduced Quincy Jones to Frank Sinatra in 1958 in Monaco.

In the fifties Jones played with nearly all the greats, from Lionel Hampton to Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Ray Charles. The second half of that serendipitous note is that I am currently watching Ray, the biographic overview of one amazing musician, and in an early scene the two cross paths in Seattle.

It’s a brief encounter here in the film, but in the book , Jones makes it out to be a significant moment for him. His desire is to make music, but to some extent he’s unsure of his prospects. Suddenly, this blind kid (and Ray was just a kid, not even 16) shows up in town, having crossed the country from Alabama, knowing no one, yet establishing himself in a foreign community. At this Quincy Jones wondered what was holding him back.

Quincy Jones has been part of our lives in ways we didn't even know. Today, let’s give a big hand to da man. Thank you, Quincy Jones, wherever you are, for your perpetual optimism and style.


Christella said...

Q is a true mentor, one who is willing to allow his mentee to surpass him. It takes a very special personality and ego to be a mentor.

I read the book some time ago, and you're right. It's excellent.

ENNYMAN said...

That's the impression I've gotten. The book is really good and I enjoyed "getting to know him."