Quincy Jones has been making music for more than 60 years. From hanging out with Ray Charles in Seattle before either of them were stars; to conducting and arranging for Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie Orchestra in the '60s; to discovering and producing Lesley Gore; to his work with Michael Jackson, which broke all sales records; to We Are The World. There's nothing Quincy Jones has not done.
In 1968, Jones and his songwriting partner Bob Russell became the first African Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, their "The Eyes of Love" for the Universal Pictures film Banning. That same year, Jones was the first African American to be nominated twice within the same year for an Academy Award for Best Original Score, as he was also nominated for his work on the film In Cold Blood (1967). In 1971, Jones was the first African American to be named as the musical director and conductor of the Academy Awards ceremony. In 1995 he was the first African American to receive the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He is tied with sound designer Willie D. Burton as the African American who has been nominated for the most Oscars; each has received seven nominations.
So far Jones has scored 33 movies, starting with The Pawnbroker in 1964:
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 (both 1966), Banning, In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night (all 1967), A Dandy in Aspic, For Love of Ivy, The Hell with Heroes, (all 1968), Mackenna's Gold, The Italian Job, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, The Lost Man, Cactus Flower, John and Mary (all 1969), The Out-of-Towners, They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (both 1970), The Anderson Tapes, $ (both 1971), and The Hot Rock, The New Centurions and The Getaway (all 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 Ironside, Banacek, The Bill Cosby Show, the opening episode of Roots, and the Goodson & Todman game show Now You See It.
However, to my mind, the greatest album Jones ever released was his Back On The Block CD.
While the whole album is a MUST LISTEN, I'd like to single out two linked tracks. "Jazz Corner Of The World" starts with archival audio of famous Jazz greats talking about the importance of Charlie Parker, Bebop music, and the New York club Birdland. That's followed by an intense Rap that introduces us -- one by one -- to all the famous musicians we will be hearing on the next tune. [NO SPOILERS.] We are taken inside the club Birdland just as Quincy Jones segues into a blazing cover of the song Birdland, first recorded by Weather Report and written by Joe Zawinul.
I consider this to be the definitive version of Birdland, with apologies to Joe Zawinul. It never fails to give me goosebumps. All those people on the same track in furtherance of an amazing arrangement. Just listen and marvel:
Jones' career is far too long and varied to sum up in this little blog post. However, as always, the proof is in the music. Here are just some of the tunes you should know: