“We had the best jazz band in the planet, and yet we were literally starving. That’s when I discovered that there was music, and there was the music business. If I were to survive, I would have to learn the difference between the two.” – Quincy Jones
My previous post on Quincy Jones was a bit more focused on his overall career and family so this time, I’d like to just focus on his musical career for a moment. In that career, there are a lot of firsts and doors opening and I think it’s important to include it all! Well, most of it, I did edit it down a bit.
At the age of 19, Quincy traveled to Europe to tour and said it turned him upside down, altering his view of racism in the US. In 1956, Jones toured again as a trumpeter and musical director of the Dizzy Gillespie Band on a tour of the Middle East and South America sponsored by the United States Information Agency. Upon his return, Jones signed with ABC-Paramount Records and started his recording career as the leader of his own band.
In 1957, Quincy settled in Paris, where he studied composition and theory with Nadia Boulanger and composer Olivier Messiaen. He also performed at the Paris Olympia. Jones became music director at Barclay Disques, a leading French record company and the licensee for Mercury Records in France. During the 1950s, he successfully toured throughout Europe with a number of jazz orchestras. Jones again formed his own big band, called The Jones Boys, with eighteen artists. Though the European and American concerts met enthusiastic audiences and sparkling reviews, concert earnings could not support a band of this size. Poor budget planning resulted in an economic disaster; the band dissolved and the fallout left Jones in a financial crisis. Irving Green, head of Mercury Records, helped Jones with a personal loan and a new job as the musical director of the company’s New York division. There he worked with Doug Moody, who founded Mystic Records.
In 1964, Jones was promoted to vice-president of Mercury Records, becoming the first African American to hold this executive position. In that same year, he turned his attention to film scores, another musical arena long closed to African Americans. At the invitation of director Sidney Lumet, he composed the music for The Pawnbroker (1964). It was the first of his 33 major motion picture scores.
Following the success of The Pawnbroker, Jones left Mercury Records and moved to Los Angeles. After composing a film score for The Slender Thread (1965), starring Sidney Poitier, he was in constant demand as a composer. His film credits in the next five years included:
- Walk, Don’t Run (1966)
- In Cold Blood (1967)
- In the Heat of the Night (1968)
- A Dandy in Aspic (1968)
- Mackenna’s Gold (1969)
- The Italian Job (1969)
- Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)
- The Lost Man (1969)
- Cactus Flower (1969)
- The Getaway (1972)
In addition, he composed “The Streetbeater,” which became familiar as the theme music for the television sitcom Sanford and Son, starring close friend Redd Foxx; he also composed the themes for other TV shows, including The Bill Cosby Show, Ironside, and the Goodson & Todman game show Now You See It.
In the 1960s, Jones worked as an arranger for some of the most important artists of the era, including Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, and Dinah Washington.
Jones’s solo recordings also gained acclaim, including Walking in Space, Gula Matari, Smackwater Jack, You’ve Got It Bad, Girl, Body Heat, Mellow Madness, and I Heard That!!. He is known for his 1962 tune “Soul Bossa Nova”, which originated on the Big Band Bossa Nova album. “Soul Bossa Nova” was a theme used for the 1998 World Cup, the Canadian game show Definition, the Woody Allen film Take the Money and Run, and the Austin Powers film series. Jones’s 1981 album, The Dude, yielded multiple hit singles, including “Ai No Corrida” (a remake of a song by Chaz Jankel), “Just Once,” and “One Hundred Ways”, the latter two featuring James Ingram on lead vocals and marking Ingram’s first hits.
In 1985, Jones wrote the score for the Steven Spielberg film adaptation of the Pulitzer-prize winning epistolary novel, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker. He and Jerry Goldsmith (from Twilight Zone: The Movie) are the only composers besides John Williams to have scored a Spielberg theatrical film. After the 1985 American Music Awards ceremony, Jones used his influence to draw most of the major American recording artists of the day into a studio to record the song “We Are the World” to raise money for the victims of Ethiopia’s famine. When people marveled at his ability to make the collaboration work, Jones explained that he’d taped a simple sign on the entrance: “Check Your Ego At The Door”.
In 1988, Quincy Jones Productions joined forces with Warner Communications to create Quincy Jones Entertainment. He signed a ten-picture deal with Warner Brothers and signed a two-series deal with NBC Productions. Jones produced the highly successful Fresh Prince of Bel Air (discovering Will Smith); UPN’s In the House, and FOX’s Madtv—which did 14 seasons on Fox. In the early 1990s, Jones started a huge, ongoing project called “The Evolution of Black Music.”
I’ll Be Good to You
I’ll Be Good to You
Stuff Like That
There’s a Train Leavin’
There’s a Train Leavin’
Ai No Corrida (I-No-Ko-Ree-Da)