An impresario in the broadest and most creative sense of the word, Quincy Jones’ career has encompassed the roles of composer, record producer, artist, film producer, arranger, conductor, instrumentalist, TV producer, record company executive, magazine founder and multi-media entrepreneur.
Celebrating more than 50 years performing and being involved in music, Quincy’s creative magic has spanned over six decades. In the mid-50’s, he was the first popular conductor-arranger to record with a Fender bass. His theme from the hit TV series Ironside was the first synthesizer-based pop theme song. As the first black composer to be embraced by the Hollywood establishment in the 60’s, he helped refresh movie music with badly needed infusions of jazz and soul. His landmark 1989 album, Back On The Block—named “Album Of The Year” at the 1990 Grammy Awards— brought such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Miles Davis together with Ice T, Big Daddy Kane and Melle Mel to create the first fusion of the be bop and hip hop musical traditions; while his 1993 recording of the critically acclaimed Miles and Quincy Live At Montreux, featured Quincy conducting Miles Davis’ live performance, garnered a Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance. As producer and conductor of the historic “We Are The World” recording (the best-selling single of all time) and Michael Jackson’s multi-platinum solo albums, Off The Wall, Bad and Thriller (the best selling album of all time, with over 46 million copies sold), Quincy Jones stands as one of the most successful and admired creative artist/executives in the entertainment world.
His 1995 recording, Q’s Jook Joint, again showcased Quincy’s ability to mold the unique talents of an eclectic group of singers and musicians — Bono, Brandy, Ray Charles, Phil Collins, Coolio, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Gloria Estefan, Herbie Hancock, Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, R. Kelly, Queen Latifah, Tone Loc, Brian McKnight, Melle Mel, Shaquille O’Neal, Barry White, Nancy Wilson, Stevie Wonder, and Yo-Yo, among others, and garnered seven Grammy nominations.
While in junior high school in Seattle, Quincy began studying trumpet and sang in a gospel quartet at age 12. His musical studies continued at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, until the opportunity arose to tour with Lionel Hampton’s band as a trumpeter, arranger and sometime-pianist. By the mid-50’s, he was arranging and recording for such diverse artists as Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Big Maybelle, Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderly and LeVern Baker.
In 1957, he began studying with Nadia Boulanger and to subsidize his studies took a job with Barclay Disques, Mercury’s French distributor.
When he became vice-president at Mercury Records in 1961, Quincy became the first high-level black executive of an established major record company. Quincy won the first of his many Grammy’s in 1963 for his Count Basie arrangement of “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”
In 1963, entering the world of film scoring, he started work on the music for Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker – the first of his 33 major motion picture scores. In 1985, he co-produced Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (eleven Oscar nominations) and marked Quincy’s debut as a film producer
In 1990, Quincy Jones formed Quincy Jones Entertainment (QJE). QJE produced NBC Television’s Fresh Prince Of Bel Air (now in syndication), and UPN’s In The House and Fox Television’s Mad TV. Quincy Jones, is also the publisher of VIBE Magazine (as well as founder), SPIN and Blaze Magazines.
In 1991, he began a continuing association with the Montreux Jazz and World Music Festival, which he serves as co-producer. In January 1992, Quincy Jones executive produced the An American Reunion concert at Lincoln Memorial, an all-star concert and celebration that was the first official event of the presidential inaugural celebration and drew widespread acclaim as an HBO telecast. On March 25, 1996, Quincy Jones, executive produced the 68th Annual Academy Awards.
As a record company executive, Quincy remains highly active in the recording field as the guiding force behind his own Qwest Records, which currently represents such artists as New Order, Tevin Campbell, Andre Crouch, Gregory Jefferson and Justin Warfield. Jones is currently collaborating with Leslie Bricusse on the libretto and songs for a Broadway play based on the life of Sammy Davis, Jr.
In 1990, his life and career were chronicled in the critically acclaimed Warner Bros. film, Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones In 2001, Quincy Jones added the title “Best Selling Author” to his list of accomplishments when his autobiography “Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones” released by Doubleday Publishing entered the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal Best-Sellers lists. In conjunction with the autobiography, Rhino Records released a 4-cd boxed set of Jones’ music, spanning his more than 5 decade career in the music business, entitled “Q: The Musical Biography of Quincy Jones.”
The audio recording of “Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones,” (Simon & Schuster) recently earned Jones his 27th Grammy Award, in the Best Spoken Word Category, while “Q: The Musical Biography of Quincy Jones” garnered him a 15th NAACP Image Award, in the category of Outstanding Jazz Artist.
Reflecting on the changes in pop music over the years, Quincy says, “If there are any common denominators, they are spirit and musicality. I go for the music that gives me goose bumps, music that touches my heart and my soul.”