Welcome to the second part of the story of Quincy Jones; still going very strong in his 80s despite a recent health scare. Behind every successful singer with hit songs is usually and extraordinarily talented and skilled musician and arranger. Quincy Jones is as comfortable in front of the band as he is behind the scenes. William Price King picks up the story as we enter the mid 50s and the 60s. Part one can be found here.
Quincy Jones was only in his late teens when he went on the road with band leader Lionel Hampton to Europe and he was to say later that it completely revised his opinion of racism in the United States.
“It gave you some sense of perspective of past, present and future. It took the myopic conflict between just black and white in the United States and put it on another level because you saw the turmoil between the Armenians and the Turks, and the Cypriots and the Greeks, and the Swedes and the Danes, and the Koreans and the Japanese. Everybody had these hassles, and you saw it was a basic part of human nature, these conflicts. It opened my soul, it opened my mind.”
Working with an established musician like Lionel Hampton opened many doors for Quincy and he opted to live in New York in the heart of the music business. All through the 1950s he worked as a freelance arranger for Tommy Dorsey, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington and his friend and collaborator Ray Charles.
As an example of the work that he was producing in collaboration with some of the greats. Sarah Vaughan with the Quincy Jones Orchestra and the classic ‘Misty‘ in 1958 for Mercury Records.
He also toured the Middle East and South America as a trumpeter and musical director for the Dizzie Gillespie band and on his return recorded his first album as a band leader for ABC Paramount Records which was released in 1956. It was considered a masterpiece of arranging and band leading. Over a short period of time the recordings evolved into a re-invention of big band music. Quincy used complex harmonies and rhythms that gave a younger and more vibrant sound that attracted a new generation of listeners as well as impressed the old hands. The pieces were also technically demanding for five or six players but took on epic proportions when performed by 20 musicians.
In 1957, Quincy settled in Paris where he studied composition with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen, and worked as a music director for Barclay Disques, Mercury Records’ French distributor. In 1958 Jones was invited by Princess Grace to arrange a benefit concert at the Monaco Sporting Club, featuring Frank Sinatra.
Here is Frank Sinatra with the Count Basie orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones.
He took to the road again as Musical Director of Harold Arlen’s jazz musical Free and Easy which closed back in Paris in 1960. Musicians who had been part of the tour included Art Farmer, Zoot Sims, Curtis Fuller, Phil Woods, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson, Art Blakey, and Hank Jones. Quincy took the newly formed band back on the road with families in tow and wowed audiences in Europe and the States. However, the overheads were astronomical and eventually they had to disband the orchestra. This left Quincy deeply in debt.
“We had the best jazz band on 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.”
Mercury Records stepped in and helped Quincy out with a loan and he went to work for them in New York as music director. He went on to be appointed vice-president of the label and was the first African-American to hold that position in a white-owned company. As well as producing albums and writing arrangements for his own artists, he also worked with other artists including Andy Williams, Peggy Lee and Aretha Franklin. He still continued to work with Frank Sinatra, arranging conducting the album It Might As Well Be Swing.
The exceptional Peggy Lee with the Quincy Jones Orchestra in 1961 – As Time Goes By.
Into the early 60s and still under thirty years old, Quincy was working with top artists as an arranger. Joining his growing list of stars was the young Greek singer Nana Mouskouri. Quincy also released his own solo recordings including Walking In Space, You’ve Got It Bad and I Heard That! His Soul Bossa Nova has been used as the theme music for a number of films and television shows as well as the 1998 World Cup.
One of the most prolific singers that he worked with in the early sixties was Lesley Gore. Born Lesley Sue Goldstein, she recorded the iconic It’s My Party in 1963 at age 16 and went on to have hits with You Don’t Own me and California Nights. Quincy produced all of her four million-selling singles in the first half of the 60s including ‘The Look of Love in 1965.
In 1964 Frank Sinatra hired Quincy to arrange and conduct his second album with Count Basie, It Might As Well Be Swing. |He followed this by conducting and arranging the singer’s live album with The Basie Band, Sinatra at the Sands (1966).
Frank Sinatra was not the only member of the Rat Pack that Quincy was to work with when he arranged and conducted the trio along with Johnny Carson with the Count Basie orchestra at a charity benefit in 1965. The event was broadcast in movie theaters around the country before being released on DVD.
In 1964, it was time for Quincy to turn his attention to a then mainly white dominated sector of film scores and his first major motion picture project for Sidney Lumet was The Pawnbroker. The film that starred Rod Steiger, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Morgan Freeman. Apart from being Quincy’s first film score it was also the first American film to tell the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of a survivor and also one of the first to show nudity.
Quincy Jone and the main theme from The Pawnbroker
Following the success of his debut into the movie industry, Quincy left Mercury Records and moved to Los Angles. His career as a composer was established rapidly with films such as The Slender Thread, In The Heat of the Night, MacKenna’s Gold, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice and The Getaway. He has written the scores for over thirty major motion pictures.
This success led to he and his song writing partner, Bob Russell becoming the first African Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for The Eyes of Love from the film Banning. The same year Quincy was also the first to be nominated twice in the same year for Best Original Score for the film In Cold Blood.
My thanks to those who have uploaded videos to YouTube.
Buy Quincy Jones Music.
Sources and information on tours and news for Quincy Jones.
Next time… Quincy Jones and the 1970s
About William Price King
William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His debut jazz album is called ‘Home,’ a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.
William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area. His album ‘Home’ is available to download and he is currently working on his new album available later in 2015.
Links to website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
You can find the previous post for Quincy Jones and the other series including Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Sir George Shearing in this directory.
We both would be very appreciative if you could leave a comment and share this new series on social media – Twitter and FB in particular. Many thanks Sally and William.