Quincy Jones holds out his hands. Like Jones, an easy racon­teur, they tell sto­ries. There’s a small scar from when he, as a young­ster in 1930s Chicago, ac­ci­dently wan­dered into a gang’s ter­ri­tory. “They nailed my hand to a fence with a switch­blade, man,” he says. Jones points to a ring on his right pinkie left to him by Frank Si­na­tra, bear­ing the singer’s fam­ily crest. It has stayed lodged on his in­ger for years just at it did on Si­na­tra’s. “The friend­ship was so strong. You can’t de­scribe it. We loved to party to­gether, make mu­sic to­gether,” says Jones, smil­ing. “I’d tell (drum­mer) Sonny Payne: ‘Let’s get the back beat a lit­tle stronger,’ be­cause Frank was only lift­ing his feet about a foot,” says Jones, stomp­ing his foot to a beat. “Let’s get a foot and a half.”

For six decades Jones has been the foot-stomp­ing back beat to a stag­ger­ing breadth of Amer­i­can mu­sic. His hands have been over ev­ery­thing. From Ella Fitzger­ald to Frank Si­na­tra, Ray Charles to Michael Jack­son, “Roots” to “In the Heat of the Night,” Jones — a trum­peter, pian­ist, com­poser, ar­ranger, pro­ducer — is the great chameleon of 20th cen­tury mu­sic. He has recorded 2,900 songs, 300 al­bums and 51 ilm and TV scores. He has been 79 times nom­i­nated for a Grammy, win­ning 27. And he has pro­duced seven kids, one of whom — Rashida Jones — has chron­i­cled him in the new doc­u­men­tary, “Quincy.”

“When I look at it now, I’m over­whelmed,” Jones said in an in­ter­view shortly be­fore “Quincy” pre­miered at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. “To have your life jump back at you on the screen — wooo!”

“Quincy,” which will de­but on Netlix and in se­lect the­aters Fri­day, is an in­ti­mate por­trait of a hard-to-sum­ma­rize le­gend. He’s now 85 and has been through a few health scares. But af­ter giv­ing up drink­ing two and a half years ago, he says, “I feel like I’m 19.”

And he has lost lit­tle of his cu­rios­ity or verve. Jones made head­lines last win­ter for a pair of can­did in­ter­views in which he dis­cussed, among other things, what he con­sid­ered the Bea­tles’ weak mu­si­cian­ship and dat­ing Ivanka Trump. He later apol­o­gized but didn’t take back any of his tales.

“I’m too old to be full of it,” Jones chuck­les. And while Jones was in a more re­laxed mood in Toronto, he was happy to con­tra­dict re­ports of the Ea­gles’ “Their Great­est Hits 1971-1975” pass­ing Jack­son’s “Thriller” (which Jones pro­duced) as the all-time best-sell­ing al­bum. “We had 150 mil­lion, man,” he says, al­lud­ing to world­wide sales. “That’s bull----.”

Jones, who in 2017 won a suit against the Jack­son es­tate over un­paid roy­al­ties, also con­tin­ued his cri­tique of the pop star’s pen­chant for lift­ing songs or not ac­cu­rately cred­it­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors. “It’s in the mu­sic. ‘Smooth Crim­i­nal,’ that says it,” says Jones.

“Michael was one pa­tient and hum­ble hu­man be­ing when it came to learn­ing,” he adds. “His idols were James Brown, Sammy Davis, Fred As­taire, Gene Kelly. I saw him copy­ing their things.”

And while he ap­plauds con­tem­po­rary acts like Chance the Rap­per and Ken­drick La­mar, he be­lieves there are fewer great songs to­day. A mas­ter of songcraft, Jones sees the art form di­min­ish­ing. “What I’m miss­ing the most is the songs,” says Jones. “There are beats and rhymes and hooks but that’s not a song, I’m sorry.”

But to give the im­pres­sion that Jones has grown quar­rel­some in his old age would do a great in­jus­tice to his play­ful in­quis­i­tive­ness or his undi­min­ished work ethic. “Quincy,” which spans Jones’ mam­moth life, cap­tures the still-very-ac­tive Jones pro­duc­ing a Kennedy Cen­ter show for the Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory.

Jones is both tire­less and tire­lessly up­beat. And his con­ver­sa­tion zig-zags as much as his ca­reer has, leap­ing from the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing in the con­trol room for Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” ses­sions to his ce­les­tial twin, Michael Caine (they were born on the same day in 1933), to when record ex­ec­u­tives dubbed him “too jazzy” to pro­duce Marvin Gaye.

“He is like a gi­ant beat­ing heart. That’s what makes him a great dad and that’s what makes him a great mu­si­cian,” says Rashida, the ac­tress-ilm­maker who co-di­rected “Quincy” with Alan Hicks. “He’s got pain like all of us. His stuff with his mom is re­ally deep. It’s still fresh and it still hurts him. But he made a de­ci­sion. He wakes up ev­ery day and he has mantras that he says to stay pos­i­tive.”


“I’ve al­ways done that. I guess that’s in place of a mother. I lost my mother when I was seven. They took her away in a strait­jacket. That did not make our lives very nice,” he says. “My brother could not deal with it. He died in 1998, my younger brother. It was se­ri­ous, man.”

Jones’ mother’s break­down (she was in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized for schizophre­nia) re­mains per­haps the most piv­otal mo­ment in his life. It’s im­pos­si­ble not to re­turn to that in­ci­dent and his hard­scrab­ble child­hood in Chicago when try­ing to an­swer where all the mu­sic came from in Jones. Such be­gin­nings would have made oth­ers more cyn­i­cal.

“You can’t af­ford to get an­gry, man,” says Jones. “Re­mem­ber Mark Twain’s words: Anger is an acid which does more harm to the ves­sel in which it’s stored than any­thing on which it’s poured. I said that to my­self when Don­ald Trump won. Are you happy with our pres­i­dent? We’ll live through it. We’ll learn.”

An­other foun­da­tional mo­ment from his youth in when Jones, at 14, was a pas­sen­ger in a fa­tal car ac­ci­dent. He never learned to drive.

“I took a driv­ing les­son. My teacher — he was from Yu­goslavia — said, ‘Man, I’m giv­ing you your money back. We don’t need an­other ma­niac on the road,’” re­calls Jones. “I was try­ing to stop on the down­beats at the stop lights.”

Rashida Jones (left) and Quincy Jones

Oprah Win­frey at the event

Ste­vie Won­der per­forms

Glo­ria Este­fan (left) and her daugh­ter Emily Este­fan

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