Quincy Delight Jones Jr. (born March 14, 1933) is an American record producer, actor, conductor, arranger, composer, musician, television producer, film producer, instrumentalist, magazine founder, entertainment company executive, and humanitarian, whose career spans six decades in the entertainment industry with a record 79 Grammy Award nominations, and 28 Grammys, including a Grammy Legend Award in 1991. Jones was born in 1933, on the South Side of Chicago to Quincy Delight Jones, Sr (1895-1971) and Sarah Frances (née Wells) (1903-1999). His father was a semi-professional baseball player and carpenter from Kentucky. Quincy was introduced to music by his mother, who always sang religious songs; and by his next-door neighbor, Lucy Jackson. When Jones was five or six, Jackson played stride piano next door, and he would always listen through the walls.
In 1943, when Jones was ten, his family moved to Bremerton, Washington, where his father got a wartime job at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. After the war, the Jones family moved to Seattle, the major regional city, where Jones attended Garfield High School near his home. He had discovered music when he was 12 and became more deeply involved in high school, developing his skills as a trumpeter and arranger. Classmates included Charles Taylor, who played saxophone and whose mother, Evelyn Bundy, had been one of Seattle’s first society jazz-band leaders. The youths began playing with a band. At the age of 14, they were playing with a National Reserve band. That same year, Jones introduced himself to a 16-year-old musician from Florida, Ray Charles, after watching him play at the Black Elks Club.
In 1951, Jones won a scholarship to Seattle University, where a young Clint Eastwood – also a music major there – watched him play in the college band. After only one semester, Jones transferred to what is now the Berklee College of Music in Boston on another scholarship. While studying at Berklee, he played at Izzy Ort’s Bar & Grille with Bunny Campbell and Preston Sandiford. He left his studies after he received an offer to tour as a trumpeter with the bandleader Lionel Hampton and embarked on his professional career. While Jones was on the road with Hampton, he displayed a gift for arranging songs. Jones relocated to New York City, where he received a number of freelance commissions arranging songs for artists including Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, and Ray Charles, by then a close friend.
At the age of 19, Jones traveled with Hampton to Europe and said it turned him upside down. 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 Classical composers Nadia Boulanger and 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, Jones successfully toured throughout Europe with a number of jazz orchestras. As musical director of Harold Arlen’s jazz musical Free and Easy, Quincy Jones took to the road again. A European tour closed in Paris in February 1960. With musicians from the Arlen show, Jones formed his own big band, called The Jones Boys, with eighteen artists. The band included double bass player Eddie Jones and fellow trumpeter Reunald Jones. They organized a tour of North America and Europe. 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. Irving Green, head of Mercury Records, helped Jones with 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. 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 the film scores for Mirage and The Slender Thread in 1965, he was in constant demand as a composer. His film credits over the next seven years included Walk, Don’t Run, The Deadly Affair, In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night, Mackenna’s Gold, The Italian Job, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Cactus Flower, The Out-of-Towners, They Call Me Mister Tibbs!, The Anderson Tapes, $ and The Getaway. 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 Ironside, Banacek, The Bill Cosby Show, the opening episode of Roots, 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 Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nana Mouskouri, Shirley Horn, 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. Jones produced all four million-selling singles for Lesley Gore during the early and mid-sixties, including “It’s My Party” (UK No. 8; US No. 1), “Judy’s Turn to Cry” (US No. 5), “She’s a Fool” (also a US No. 5) in 1963, and “You Don’t Own Me” (US No. 2 for four weeks in 1964). He continued to produce for Gore until 1966, including the Greenwich/ Barry hit “Look of Love” (US No. 27) in 1965.
In 1975, Jones founded Qwest Productions, for which he arranged and produced hugely successful albums by Frank Sinatra and other major pop figures. In 1978, he produced the soundtrack for The Wiz, the musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. In 1982, Jones produced Michael Jackson’s all-time best-selling album Thriller. 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. 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.
In 1988, Quincy Jones Productions joined forces with Warner Communications to create Quincy Jones Entertainment. He signed a 10-picture deal with Warner Brothers and signed a two-series deal with NBC Productions. The television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was completed in 1990. In 1993, Jones collaborated with David Salzman to produce the concert extravaganza, An American Reunion. Jones appeared in the Walt Disney Pictures film, Fantasia 2000, introducing the set piece of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. In 2001, Jones published his autobiography, Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. On July 31, 2007, he partnered with Wizzard Media to launch the Quincy Jones Video Podcast. On February 10, 2008, Jones joined Usher in presenting the Grammy Award for Album of the Year to Herbie Hancock. On January 6, 2009, Jones appeared on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly to discuss various aspects of his prolific career. In February 2014, Jones appeared in “Keep on Keepin’ On,” a documentary about his friend Clark Terry. In July 2014, Jones was starring in a documentary film, The Distortion of Sound. In September 2015, Jones was a guest on Dr. Dre’s The Pharmacy on Beats 1 Radio. On February 28, 2016, he and Pharell Williams presented Ennio Morricone with the Oscar for best film score, and in August 2016, he and his music were featured at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.
My collection includes the following work by Quincy Jones:
The Color Purple: Main Title.