Quincy Jones Biography

Quincy Delight Jones Jnr., 14 March 1933, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Jones began playing trumpet as a child and also developed an early interest in arranging, studying at the Berklee College Of Music. When he joined Lionel Hampton in 1951 it was as both performer and writer. With Hampton he visited Europe in a remarkable group that included rising stars Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Gigi Gryce and Alan Dawson. Leaving Hampton in 1953, Jones wrote arrangements for many musicians, including some of his former colleagues and Ray Anthony, Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey. He mostly worked as a freelance but had a stint in the mid-50s as musical director for Dizzy Gillespie, one result of which was the 1956 album World Statesman. Later in the 50s and into the 60s Jones wrote charts and directed the orchestras for concerts and record sessions by several singers, including Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstine, Brook Benton, Dinah Washington (an association that included the 1956 album The Swingin’ Miss ‘D’), Johnny Mathis and Ray Charles, whom he had known since childhood. He continued to write big band charts, composing and arranging albums for Basie, 1959’s One More Time and 1963’s Li’l Ol’ Groovemaker... Basie.

By this time, Jones was fast becoming a major force in American popular music. In addition to playing he was busy writing and arranging, and was increasingly active as a record producer. In the late 60s and 70s Jones composed scores for around 40 feature films and hundreds of television shows. Among the former were The Pawnbroker (1965), In Cold Blood (1967) and In The Heat Of The Night (1967), while the latter included the long-running Ironside series and Roots. Other credits for television programmes include The Bill Cosby Show, NBC Mystery Series, The Jesse Jackson Series, In The House and Mad TV. He continued to produce records featuring his own music played by specially assembled orchestras. As a record producer Jones had originally worked for Mercury Records’ Paris-based subsidiary Barclay, but later became the first black vice-president of the company’s New York division. Later, he spent a dozen years with A&M Records before starting up his own label, Qwest. Despite suffering two brain aneurysms in 1974 he showed no signs of reducing his high level of activity. In the 70s and 80s, in addition to many film soundtracks, he produced successful albums for Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Michael Jackson, the Brothers Johnson and other popular artists. With Benson he produced Give Me The Night, while for Jackson he helped to create Off The Wall and Thriller, the latter proving to be one of the bestselling albums of all time. He was also producer of the 1985 number 1 charity single ‘We Are The World’. Latterly, Jones has been involved in film and television production, not necessarily in a musical context.

As a player, Jones is an unexceptional soloist; as an arranger, his attributes are sometimes overlooked by the jazz audience, perhaps because of the manner in which he has consistently sought to create a smooth and wholly sophisticated entity, even at the expense of eliminating the essential characteristics of the artists concerned (as some of his work for Basie exemplifies). Nevertheless, with considerable subtlety he has fused elements of the blues and its many offshoots into mainstream jazz, and has found ways to bring soul to latter-day pop in a manner that adds to the latter without diminishing the former. His example has been followed by many although few have achieved such a level of success. A major film documentary, Listen Up: The Lives Of Quincy Jones, was released in 1990, and five years later Jones received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. This coincided with Q’s Jook Joint, a celebration of his 50 years in the music business with re-recordings of selections from his extraordinarily varied catalogue. The album lodged itself at the top of the Billboard jazz album chart for over four months. The movie Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery prompted a release of his 60s classic ‘Soul Bossa Nova’ in 1998.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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