WASHINGTON, April 18, 2013 — Quincy Jones receives yet another award tonight. This most versatile musician is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Los Angeles.
A standup man, Jones is also a standout Music Man in virtually every field of entertainment. A true impresario who has won 27 Grammy awards, he will be awarded the Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement. It is the first time since 1993 that the Cleveland, Ohio landmark has staged its awards ceremony on the West Coast. For those not able to be there, it will be shown on HBO on May 18.
Today and tomorrow many will write about his rock and roll connections and credentials, which earn him this current distinguished honor for his contributions to rock and roll.
For example, it was Jones who produced the 1963 #1 hit, “It’s My Party (and I’ll Cry If I Want To)” for Leslie Gore. He was out of the country when the record was prematurely released, and upon his return he suggested they change the last name of the singer before the record went out. “Quincy,” he was told, “it’s already out, and it’s number one on the charts.”
Quincy Jones First Began with the Big Bands
But Quincy Jones’ roots were in jazz, which is how I first discovered him. I recall vividly the first time I saw him. Not in person. His picture was on the cover of an LP (long-play) record album in a Washington, D.C. music store. The bright red cover showed this handsome man dressed in a black suit and tie, with a wide grin, arms outstretched as if leading a band. Above him was the record title, “Hip Hits.” The store’s asking price in 1963 was $3.95 for an LP, which averaged 12 to 14 songs.
The line-up and liner notes included the greatest jazz musicians playing a marvelous collection of songs. Among them were Joe Newman, Zoot Sims, Phil Woods, and Jim Hall playing “Watermelon Man,” “Exodus,” “Desafinado,” “Jive Samba,” “Take Five,” among others. When I hurried home with it and began listening, I was a convert to Quincy Jones before the long-play (which seemed too short) ended.
The next year saw the release of such greats as his exploration of the music of Henry Mancini with arrangements of “Peter Gunn,” “Mr. Lucky,” “Charade,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” and “Dreamsville,” to name a few.
That’s the year I went to see Frank Sinatra at the Baltimore Civic Auditorium and discovered that my favorite singer was backed by the Count Basie Band, conducted by none other than Quincy Jones. I was enthralled watching the young Jones, in his crouched position, as he dynamically led the band behind this legendary performer. It was during their stint together that Mr. Sinatra gave Mr. Jones the lasting nickname, “Q.”
That same year, the men teamed in recording the album, “It Might As Well Be Swing.” On it was what became another signature song for Sinatra, “Fly Me To the Moon.” As arranged by Jones, this version dropped the waltz-time rhythm in favor of a looser 4/4 swing. This recording would be played by the astronauts of Apollo 10 on their lunar orbital mission. It was played again on the moon by astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 landing.
Astronauts Selected “Fly Me to the Moon”
Then In 2008, at NASA’s 50th anniversary gala, Quincy Jones would present platinum copies of the record to Ohio Senator John Glenn and Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong.
Quincy Jones also composed motion picture soundtracks for such films as, “The Pawnbroker,” “Mirage,” “In Cold Blood,” and “In the Heat of the Night.”
There seemed, and still seems, no limit to the talents and gifts of this versatile man. He was a trumpet soloist with the great Lionel Hampton big band; a composer of such songs as the haunting “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set”; arranger for many big band numbers to be found on his albums, “Big Band” Volumes 1 and 2; record producer for such hits as the 1982 Michael Jackson phenomenon, “Thriller”; soundtrack composer for films such as “The Color Purple”; film and television producer; conductor, record company executive; entrepreneur and humanitarian, who produced the marvelous 1985 charity single, “We Are the World,” which raised $50 millions for Africa.
Born March 14, 1933, on the South Side of Chicago, he was headed for juvenile delinquency when he happened upon a piano. This chance encounter altered his life path. Then in school, he discovered the trumpet and his life took off on an upward course. He was discovered and coached by the great trumpet player Clark Terry.
And then he met Ray Charles. In the 1950s he arranged and recorded for such superstars as Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, and others as well as making a government-sponsored tour with Dizzy Gillespie.
At Mercury records, Quincy wrote for Sammy Davis Jr., Andy Williams, Peggy Lee, Aretha Franklin, and Donna Summer.
Historical Collaboration with Sinatra and Jazz Greats
To see Quincy at work and play, check out “Portrait of an Album.” In this historical 1985 collaboration between Mr. Q and Mr. S., with some of the finest jazz musicians of the day, viewers get to witness the recording, step by step, song by song, of one of Frank Sinatra’s last albums, “L.A. Is My Lady.” Quincy says, “We came armed with the best arrangements, the best songs, the best musicians and the greatest singer in the world.”
The session was recorded live with the band and the singer in the same room, the way it used to be. There was no laying down tracks of sections of the band, then overlaying the vocal. In the band were Lionel Hampton, Joe Newman, the Brecker Brothers, George Benson, Urbie Green, Frank Foster, and other greats, as they recorded giant classics like, “Mack the Knife,” “After You’ve Gone,” “Stormy Weather,” “Teach Me Tonight,” and others. Plus there was an abundance of banter and laughter between takes, but it was “down to business” when the tape rolled for recording.
The session was so special that these musicians who had seen it all brought cameras to photograph the occasion. Also a visitor dropped in to see how it was done. Quincy had invited his protégé because he wanted these two iconic men to meet: Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson.
Overlapping, if not girding, decades of music was the artistry of Quincy Jones, a true delight. In fact, check it out, “Delight” is, in reality, Quincy Jones’ middle name.
Vance Garnett has sung with some great musicians over the years in L.A., D.C., Miami, Army Special Services; and for one year aboard an Italian cruise ship out of Miami to the Bahamas. He has met and interacted with musical celebrities.
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