Quincy Jones: Q

Den Eindruck, den man aus der Lektüre von Q. mitnimmt ist, dass Jones bei fast allen wichtigen Entwicklungen der Populären Musikgeschichte nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg dabei war. Und das stimmt wohl auch. Als Augenzeuge und teilweise Hebamme war er bei der Geburt des Bebop dabei, bei Frankie Sinatras größten Triumphen, bei Michael Jacksons Thriller natürlich aber auch bei einigen wichtigen Rap-Events. Wohl kein lebender Musiker deckt den Range ab, den Jones als Instrumentalist, Arrangeur, Produzent und Komponist hingekriegt hat. Hier einige nette Auszüge. Quincy’s homepage

Jesus on Bariton Sax

Dies erzählt Bobby Tucker, Arrangeur und Leiter unter anderem bei Billy Eckstine, bei dem Quincy Jones noch als Teenager Trompete gespielt hat, über Quincy’s Arbeitsweise:

„Now what separates Quincy from other arrangers is his speed and technical ability to get unstuck quick, and his first eight bars, which is often the most important part of a song because that pulls you in. That’s what set him apart, that and one other thing: If Quincy were writing Dante’s Inferno, he’d have Satan’s telephone number. He knew how to get the job done. He’d call any cat at any time: Cannonball Adderley or Little Richard’s mama or Jesus himself. If he knew Jesus was in town and played E flat baritone sax and could read. And if Jesus couldn’t read, Quincy would call him anyway and talk him through the part. He’s good at that. He’s been writing “Put some grease on bar thirty-seven” and “A little garlic salt and butter at bar twenty-three” on Toots Thielemans’ harmonica parts for thirty-five years. Ask Toots about that. For all I know Toots can’t read music. Only he and Quincy know what that grease and garlic butter shit means. Maybe it’s a recipe.” (p. 121)

Billy Eckstine

Toots Thielemans

Striking Time

Und so ging es mit den Damen zu, als Quincy in Lionel Hamptons Big Band war:

„But puppy love ended with Hamp’s band. That’s where my life as a dog really began. During twenty-four consecutive one-nighters, with pretty women in every small town, I’d watch how the old cats did it. They had a ritual because the striking time was short. On a typical tour of forty-two consecutive one-nighters in the Carolinas, we’d travel seven hundred miles a night on the bus, arrive in a town at 5 P.M., check into the fleabag hotel, then eat and/or shot pool. After the gig we’d go back to the room, wash the shirt, fold and slip the pants under the mattress to press them, hang the shirt and jacket on hangers in the bathroom, and run hot water in the shower to let the steam flatten out the wrinkles. Then wash the handkerchief and stick it to the mirror to let it dry overnight. Then wash the handkerchief and stick it to the mirroro to let it dry overnight. Then the hair: First you slap on a dab of Murray’s from the famous orange tin container, an industrial-strength, hurricane-proof ghetto hair pomade guaranteed to hold your do in place for a week – that shit was like Super Glue; then you gently slide a little Black Beauty on your hair for coloring – that could potentially get dark stains all over your pillow; finally topping it off with a taste of Three Flowers to bring out the sheen, and a finesse to give it that sweet aroma. The last step of the process was the delicate application of the “doorag”. By this time I was an expert at doing my do. I had negotiated my way out of gym in high school with coach Lindquist in return for playing four of his choice dances a year. I didn’t want to shower after gym and got rhrough the whole hair routine again: I preferred to practice my boogie-woogie licks on the piano in the choir room.

After this elaborate preparation we’d hit the stage clean. Hamp, wearing Italian suits, and the entire band wearing glow-in-the-dark white gloves for exquisite pre-Temptations hand choreography, would rock our audiences till the rural workers in red suits were dancing on top of oil spills in warehouses in North and South Carolina while the crowd would jitterbug holes into the sawdust floor, I’d spot my prospective pretty young thing from the bandstand. The big-time dogs in the band had all the music memorized because we knew we needed to have our eyes free for trolling. The new guys, in contrast, had their eyes buried in the music stand.

The band usually took a twenty-minute intermission: it was now or never. I’d come down. Say something funny or stupid to gauge a girl’s responsiveness, to make sure this wasn’t a one-handed clap. Ther was no time for wining and dining. Romance for musicians was, by the necessities of time and circumstances, less than glamorous. With three years of being on the road in the United States behind me, by the time we toured Europe in 1953, I felt pretty comfortable with women, having been trained by the best in the business. […]. No one could ever accuse me of leaving some sweet “skol” sister out in the cold. I did the best I could at all times.” (p. 1535 f.)

Lionel Hampton

It ain’t necessarily so

Clarence Avant, Manager bei einer Plattenfirma und gut mit Quincy befreundet, erzählt:

„Though we’re best friends, we don’t always agree. I love Duke. He loves Duke, but he’d kill for Basie. I don’t hug no-motherfuckin-body not related tome by blood or business. Quincy, on the other hand, he’s a guy who … let me put it this way: If God came down to Earth tomorrow on a motorcycle and had to talk to you, before He left He’d say, “Tell me, have you hugged Quincy lately? Where is he?” And I guarantee you before He left, Quincy would have spoken with Him and they would have hugged and cut a deal. And food. He screams at me when I put a bottle of red wine in the fridge. Because I don’t know a good bottle of wine from a bottle of Mad Dog 2020. He knows what a bottle of 1922 blah-blah is, and whose grandma made it, and why the sit on the grapes or whatever the fuck they do. I have no idea why he dares for all that dumb shit, but I love him. Only in heaven will I find a better friend.” (p. 167 f.)

“I’ve never met anyone who can walk into a room and have grown men – seasoned, grizzled businessmen – hugging each other. If I hugged as many motherfuckers as he did in a day, my arms would be banana peels. He’s so personable. Shit, I couldn’t be that personable with my mother.” (p. 169)

“Goddammit, I’ve seen him go through some decimating times with his marriages, especially with his divorce from Peggy Lipton. That took a horrible toll on him. What he’s been through with love would drive a normal man insane. I tell him all the time, “Why can’t you just fall in love with one woman and make it last forever?” He told me. “Clarence, you’re right. But sometimes, maybe the only thing worse than being alone is whishing you were.” (p. 169)

Duke Ellington

Count Basie

Michael Jackson

“Michael’s a devout Jehovah’s Witness – he even used to dress up occasionally like a normal person and walk through neighbourhoods to spread his gospel – but he wasn’t leaving that on e up to religion. […] We rehearsed the record ( Thriller, StS ) at my house. He was so shy head sit down and sing behind the couch with his back to me while I sat there with my hands over my eiyes with the lights off.” (p. 232)

“We knew the music was hot. On “Beat It” the level was literally so hot that at one point in the studio Bruce Swedien called us over and the right speaker burst into flames. We’d never seen anything like that in forty years in the business. That was the first time I began to see the wildness that was in Michael’s life during the Thriller sessions. One time we were working in the Westlake studio and a healthy California girl walked by the front window of the studio, which was a one-way mirror facing the street, and pulled her dress up over her head. She was wearing absolutely nothing underneath. Rod and Bruce and I got an eyeful. It was right on time in the middle of intense deadline pressure. Wee stood there gawking. We turned around an saw Michael, devoted Jehovah’s Witness that he was, hiding behind the console-“ (p. 237)

“Michael was a different kind of entertainer. Completely dedicated. He practiced hi dancing for hours. Every lick, every gesture, every movement was carefully conceived and considered. He lived in a fantasyland because that’s what worked for him. At his place in Havenhurst, he used to have a mouthy parrot with a lot of attitude as well as a boa constrictor named Muscles. One day Muscles was missing. They looked all over the property inside and out, and after two days they finally found him dangling from the parrot’s cage, with the parrot’s beak stickin out of his mouth. He’d swallowed that sucker whole and couldn’t back his head out the bars because he hadn’t digested the bird yet. In a way, that’s a metaphor for Michael’s life after Thriller, because at a certain point, he couldn’t get back out of the cage, It all became overwhelming for him.

You have to remember that in the music business every decade produced a monster, screaming-groupies phenomenon: in the forties it was Frank Sinatra, in the fifties Elvis Presley, in the sixties the Beatles. In the seventies Stevie Wonder and the introduction of the full-range Dolby sound for films, had a big impact. In the eighties Michael took it home, because no matter what anyone thought music was before, he was light-years ahead. Thriller sold 50 million copies all over the world, more than any other album in the history of the record business. Let’s get real: Michael was the biggest entertainer of the planet Earth. WE made history together. This was the first time a young black performer had won the hearts of everyone from eight years old to eighty. All over the world. This was breaking major barriers.” (p. 240 f.)

Michael Jackson “Thriller”

Leonard Bernstein

“For months Lennie had been saying he wanted to learn the authentic wtreet way of saying “yo mama”. I said, “That’s easy. If you’re in the middle of a rehearsal and the cellist says, ‘Mr. Bernstein, your downbeat on bar forty-one is a little flabby,’ you say ‘yo mama’”. He kept confusing it with Yo-Yo Ma!

In the Sistine Chapel we were lying on the floor, which is forbidden during normal hours. At the time, the Chapel was closed to the public; half of the ceiling was still being restored. Lennie had on his horn-rimmed glasses. After extensive Harvardese commentary he grabbed me by the neck and pointed up to the ceiling. “Look at that! Michelangelo doesn’t know what a woman looks like. He was as gay as I am. Those are just guys with tits.”

All of a sudden the  monsignor walked in, freaked, and shooed us out in Italian: he didn’t recognize Lennie. Bernstein responded with “Yo mama!”. I said, “That’s the right time and the right way to say it, but this is the wrong place.” (p. 241)

Leonard Bernstein


These days music is literally global in sweep. The genie’s out of the bottle, never to return, with MP3, Napster/Scour, and Freenet and Gnutella rendering all previous lines of demarcation meaningless. There’s a revolution in progress, levelling everything in its path. Copyrights, masters, negatives, books, records, and films: it’s all the same to a binary number, or a carbon atom and hydrogen qubit. Legislation, global police monitioring by knocking on tow million doors - I don’t think so. All I know is; you cant afford to make the customers your enemy. They no longer want to purchase a CD with ten or twelve songs on it to get the two they really want. They are also hip enough to know about atitsts’ earning and no longer want to pay the price for alle the people in the middle of the distribution chain. These technological changes have provided an unexpected an highly efficient platform for rebellion for the current generation. We better get together and figure it out – and quickly!” (p. 299) Bravo Quincy!