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Quincy Jones

Reviewed on this page:
Golden Boy - Walking In Space - You've Got It Bad Girl - Body Heat - Mellow Madness - I Heard That!! - Sounds... And Stuff Like That! - The Dude - Back On The Block

Nowadays, Quincy Jones is better known as an industry mogul and power broker than a producer/arranger/performer. In the 60s he became the first dark-skinned person in the Hollywood boy's club, and he hasn't looked back: if it's a mainstream Hollywood project with black people in it - from The Color Purple to The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air - the odds are that Jones' name is attached to it. With an empire encompassing publishing, television and films, he doesn't have much time for music anymore. And you could make the argument that networking, not music, was his strong suit all along: he's the original producer-as-artist, hooking up studio musicians with studio singers to perform songs he didn't write. (Not that he's never written anything: he did create the themes for Ironside, Sanford & Son and Roots, which won an Emmy.) Along the way he's won 26 Grammys and produced the world's best-selling album (Thriller).

Jones got his start as a jazz arranger and trumpeter, working on such classics as The Genius Of Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra's version of "Fly Me To The Moon," in addition to albums as a leader. Moving into pop in the 60s, he produced Lesley Gore's grating/unforgettable "It's My Party" among others. As the years went by, his own albums became less jazz and more pop, while his own performing and songwriting contributions diminished, and by the 80s he was confined to the control room. (DBW)

Other Quincy Jones productions reviewed on the site:

Quincy Jones With The Swedish / U.S. All Stars (1953)

This Is How I Feel About Jazz (1956)
Jones wrote only a few songs here ("Stockholm Sweetnin'," "Boo's Blues," "Evening In Paris"). The huge cast of musicians includes Pepper Adams, Benny Carter, Paul Chambers, Milt Jackson, Herbie Mann, Charles Mingus, Zoot Sims and Phil Woods. (DBW)

Go West Man! (1957)
A smaller crew this time: Adams, Carter, Walter Benton, Buddy Collette, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Herb Geller, Lou Levy, Mel Lewis, Shelly Manne, Charlie Mariano, Red Mitchell, Art Pepper, Bill Perkins, Jack Sheldon, Leroy Vinnegar. (DBW)

The Birth Of A Band (1959)

The Great Wide World Of Quincy Jones: LIVE! (1961)
His working band at this time featured Woods, Freddie Hubbard, and Les Spann among others. (DBW)

Quincy Jones At Newport '61 (1961)

I Dig Dancers (1961)

Around The World (1961)

Quintessence (1961)
Includes Q's title track and Monk's "Straight No Chaser." Players include Woods, Hubbard, Milt Hinton, Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson, and Snooky Young. (DBW)

Big Band Bossa Nova (1962)
The names are mostly unfamililiar, aside from Rahsaan Roland Kirk. (DBW)

Plays Hip Hits (1963)
At this point Jones was clearly reaching out to a well-heeled, dare I say unhip crowd, as evidenced by titles like "A Taste Of Honey" and "Exodus." As usual, though, he has much higher quality musicians than you'd think the material would require: Hinton, Young, Sims, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Kai Winding, James Moody, Lalo Schifrin, and so on. (DBW)

The Boy In The Tree (1963)

Quincy's Got A Brand New Bag (1964)
Q's take on and R&B hits like "Ain't That Peculiar," "I Hear A Symphony," "Hang On Sloopy" and of course, "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag."

Explores The Music Of Henry Mancini (1964)
All the biggies: "Moon River," "Charade," "The Pink Panther Theme," "Peter Gunn," et cetera. This may be the first time Jones recorded with harmonica whiz Toots Thielemans. (DBW)

Golden Boy (1964)
An interesting window into Jones's head at just the point when he was shifting from ambitious jazz cat to Hollywood heavy. Some cuts are pure lounge MOR for the hi-fi set: "Theme From Golden Boy (String Version)"; a campy "Hard Day's Night." But there's also some hard-swinging, well-charted big band jazz: Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder"; Curtis Ousley and Luther Dixon's "Soul Serenade" and "Theme From Golden Boy (Big Band Version)." The three Jones compositions follow the same pattern - "The Witching Hour" is upbeat jazz; "Seaweed" is schmaltz - and they're agreeably minor works; best is the vaguely creepy "The Midnight Sun Will Never Set." The one clear attempt to bridge the gap is a laid-back, attenuated string arrangment of the Modern Jazz Quartet standard "Django," and while it's curious, it's not the kind of experiment you're eager to see repeated. (DBW)

The Pawnbroker (1964)
A movie soundtrack, with Astrid Gilberto and Sarah Vaughan on vocals, plus Kenny Burrell, Hubbard, J.J. Johnson, Elvin Jones, and many more. (DBW)

Quincy Plays For Pussycats (1965)
Versions of pop and rock hits like "The In Crowd," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and inevitably Bacharach/David's "What's New Pussycat." (DBW)

Walk Don't Run (1966)

The Slender Thread (1966)

The Deadly Affair (1967)

Enter Laughing (1967)

In The Heat Of The Night (1967)

In Cold Blood (1967)

For The Love Of Ivy (1968)

MacKenna's Gold (1969)

The Italian Job (1969)

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)

John And Mary (1969)

Walking In Space (1969)
After several years spent concentrating on movie soundtracks, Jones knocked off this curious jazzy take on pop in a couple of weeks, and was rewarded at Grammy time. Side One is occupied by sprawling renditions of two minor tunes from the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical "Hair," with tripped-out, repetitive vocalizing from Valerie Simpson, Hilda Harris, Marilyn Jackson and Maretha Stewart. The flip side incorporates some straight jazz (Benny Golson's "Killer Joe," spoiled by jive vocalizing) before closing with a version of the Edwin Hawkins gospel hit "Oh Happy Day." Performers include Hubbard, Laws, Kirk, Thielemans, Winding, Bob James (who wrote and arranged "Love And Peace"), Eric Gale, Chuck Rainey and Bernard Purdie. (DBW)

Gula Matan (1970)

The Out Of Towners (1970)

Cactus Flower (1970)

They Call Me Mr. Tibbs (1970)

Smackwater Jack (1971)
Another pop/jazz album, mostly covers (Carole King's title track). (DBW)

The Hot Rock (1972)

Ndeda (1972)

Come Back Charleston Blue (1972)

You've Got It Bad Girl (1973)
Mostly an album of easy-listening cover tunes, so LA-smooth it's sleep inducing: all the energy is drained out of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In The City," and the medley of "Daydreaming" and "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" is deadening despite vocals from Valerie Simpson. Two Stevie Wonder covers ("Superstition," title track) are unimaginative tossoffs - Stevie adds harmonica to "Superstition," but it sounds like one-take noodling. There's also a lengthy, diffuse fusion take on Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca." The three Jones originals are a bit better: "Eyes Of Love" and "Love Theme From The Getaway" are mellow excuses for Toots Thielemans harmonica solos, and I've always been a sucker for the "Sanford & Son Theme," which uses a blend of crude-sounding percussion and electric sax to create the perfect theme for a jaunty junkman. (DBW)

Body Heat (1974)
For once Jones didn't rely on cover tunes, cowriting most of the material with Leon Ware. If you're famililar with Ware's work on Marvin Gaye's I Want You, it won't surprise you that his compositions here are sub-mental odes to getting busy (title track, "One Track Mind"). What may surprise you is Jones's aimless arrangements: he eschews formal song structure in favor of atmospherics like swirling chants and circular non sequiturs over an unvarying, smokey groove ("Soul Saga (Song Of The Buffalo Soldier)"). The effect is occasionally intoxicating but mostly a turnoff. The only real songs here are a bossa nova showcase for Hubert Laws (Golson's "Along Came Betty"), and a lengthy, tacky knockoff of Wonder's "All In Love Is Fair," written and sung by Jones protegé Bernard Ighner ("Everything Must Change"). With Gale, James, Purdie and Rainey, Herbie Hancock, Dave Grusin, Al Jarreau, Minnie Riperton, Billy Preston, Malcolm Cecil & Robert Margouleff, Max Bennett and Chuck Findley, Dennis Coffey, Bobbye Hall, Mike Melvoin, Grady Tate, Richard Tee, David T. Walker, Wah Wah Watson... Jeez, who wasn't on this record? (DBW)

Mellow Madness (1975)
It's lucky for you that I'm not juvenile enough to give this a two-word review: Mellow Badness. But it wouldn't be far off. The tunes are from Quincy's circle - Thieleman's "Bluesette" is a whistling showcase; Wah Wah Watson and Q's "Cry Baby" is mild funk - but they're dull, and yet another Stevie cover ("My Cherie Amour") is predictable. Ware returns for one tune, "Paranoid," and though the funk jam is nothing special, it might be the high point of the disc. The low point is the spoken word "Beautiful Black Girl," an embarrassing attempt to mainstream the Last Poets. The album does mark the first appearance of proteges George and Louis Johnson, who wrote a few songs ("Listen (What It Is)") with George contributing several lead vocals ("Is It Love That We're Missin'"). Basically the same lineup as the previous album, plus vocalists Paulette McWililams (title track) and Minnie Riperton. (DBW)

I Heard That!! (1976)
A double album: one LP of greatest hits, and one of new material, which the rating is based on. The new stuff - again, all by Quincy or his crew except for a Wonder cover (a new version of "Superstition," with Stevie again on harmonica) - is much livelier than Madness, but otherwise there's not much to say for it. Vocal group The Wattsline does most of the singing, and they seem to be copying Gladys Knight & The Pips on uptempo but slick R&B like "There's A Train Leavin'" and "Things Could Be Worse For Me." Then there's the tacky instrumental "Midnight Soul Patrol" and an inoffensive but negligible Thieleman feature, "Brown Soft Shoe." The best song is also the shortest: the title track, a sly slice of midtempo funk. Musicians include the Brothers Johnson, Young, Tee, Rainey, Preston, Stanley Clarke, Cat Anderson and Carol Kaye. (DBW)

Roots (1977)

Sounds... And Stuff Like That! (1978)
Moving further to the mainstream, the only jazz material here is Hancock's "Tell Me A Bedtime Story," with the composer on electric piano, Laws on flute, and Harry Lookofsky using multitracking violins to replicate Hancock's original piano solo. At least it's an attempt to create something new, even though the syrupy fusion backing track makes it unlistenable. Jones co-wrote three songs here: "Stuff Like That" with Ashford & Simpson and Chaka Khan, and two ballads sung by protege Patti Austin: "I'm Gonna Miss You In The Morning" and "Love, I Never Had It So Good." Q's line of unilluminating covers reaches a low point with the Doobie Brothers hit, "Takin' It To The Streets," with vocals by Vandross and Gwen Guthrie; the version of Wonder's "Superwoman" is similarly redundant. Sax solos are contributed by Michael Brecker and Tom Scott; the rhythm section is Steve Gadd, Anthony Jackson, Ralph MacDonald, Gale and Tee. (DBW)

The Dude (1981)
Once again, another Jones production with not a hair out of place. This won several Grammys, and there are some very good tunes here: Barry Mann & Cynthia Weill's excellent ballad "Just Once" was a hit, as was the similar but sappier "Find One Hundred Ways" (both sung by James Ingram). There's also some funk: the title track (with an early assimilation of rap), "Ai No Corrida" and Stevie Wonder's donation "Betcha Wouldn't Hurt Me." Austin contributes lead vocals on half the tracks, and she's entertaining, even if her tone is a bit too close to Roberta Flack's. Besides Wonder, there are a million other guest stars and top session players, including Hancock, Hawk Wolinski, Louis Johnson, Greg Phillinganes, Steve Lukather, Jerry Hey, Toots Thielmans, Ernie Watts, and (surprisingly enough) Paulinho Da Costa. (DBW)

In 1985, Jones produced the "We Are The World" single. (DBW)

Back On The Block (1989)
After thirtysome years of hipness, Jones' ultraprofessional production style fell by the wayside in the late 80s, as hip hop, MIDI and drum machines downsized armies of session cats. Here Q attempts to ride the wave, with unfortunate results: mechanical beats are not only omnipresent, they're mixed way up front to make sure you don't miss the point. He also hauls in a zillion pop stars to give him currency - Al B. Sure!, Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T, Tevin Campbell - and hedging his bets, reaches back to more mature stars to help him snag his core audience. So we're treated to two great singers, Ray Charles and Chaka Khan, covering a 1970s Brothers Johnson tune ("I'll Be Good To You") with an obnoxiously modern arrangement. As if that wasn't enough, he brings in top-flight jazz stars Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Hancock, Joe Zawinul, James Moody and George Benson. But to fit them all onto one track he pushes each one aside after a few licks, increasing the chaotic sound of the whole situation. Jones was trying to synthesize a whole century of American music on one disc, which is probably impossible anyway (see the School Daze soundtrack for more details), and give it a radio-friendly sheen besides. Worse still, most of the original tunes are dull (except for Siedah Garrett's "One Man Woman"), and the covers (including Zawinul's "Birdland") aren't very interesting either. (DBW)

Q's Jook Joint (1995)
A bigger cast than ever, with the A-list stars including Charles, Hancock, Khan, Laws, Moody, Thielemans, Wonder, Shaquille O'Neal, Gloria Estefan, Bono, R. Kelly, Queen Latifah, Tone Loc, Joshua Redman, Take 6, Coolio, Phil Collins, Brian McKnight, Brandy, and Barry White. (DBW)

This Is How I Feel About Jazz

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