Quintessen­tially Quincy: New doc re­veals a full life

Le­gendary mu­sic pro­ducer’s daugh­ter, ac­tor Rashida Jones, spear­heads film project stream­ing on Net­flix.

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Bryan Alexan­der

LOS AN­GE­LES – Quincy Jones needs ice cream. Any ice cream. Sit­ting in a suite at the Four Sea­sons Ho­tel, Jones mur­murs his de­sire for his fa­vorite snack in the di­rec­tion of an as­sis­tant and mag­i­cally, within min­utes, he’s nosh­ing hap­pily on a con­tainer of cof­fee ice cream, even lick­ing the top. “Get it all, Dad,” his daugh­ter Rashida Jones says, watch­ing the scene.

Jones’ smile grows big­ger as he con­tin­ues eat­ing. “I’m not miss­ing a drop,” he says.

At 85, the le­gendary pro­ducer, com­poser and ar­ranger is still very much on top of his ca­reer while en­joy­ing ev­ery bite of his im­pos­si­bly col­or­ful life. It gets a close-up ex­am­i­na­tion in the doc­u­men­tary “Quincy,” writ­ten and di­rected by Rashida and Alan Hicks, that ar­rived re­cently on Net­flix fol­low­ing the film’s world pre­miere ear­lier this month at Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

The film­mak­ers spent six years

chron­i­cling Jones’ gen­er­a­tion- and genre-span­ning ca­reer, which took him from a life of poverty on Chicago’s South Side to one of world-al­ter­ing achieve­ments and global ado­ra­tion after Jones found his sal­va­tion in mu­sic and joined Lionel Hamp­ton’s big band as a trum­peter at age 18.

In just more than two hours, “Quincy” pays homage to seven decades of Jones’ achieve­ments: 27 Grammy Awards and 79 nom­i­na­tions; pro­duc­ing tracks for Ray Charles and Frank Si­na­tra; men­tor­ing young Michael Jack­son, Oprah Win­frey and Will Smith to su­per­star­dom; pro­duc­ing USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” for famine re­lief; and three mar­riages and seven chil­dren – all while serv­ing as an in­spi­ra­tional role model who calls Colin Pow­ell and former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama close friends.

“There is so much, man, you just can­not do it. Too much stuff,” says Jones, shak­ing his head and riff­ing with his di­rec­tor daugh­ter.

“It’s crazy. This is re­ally a starter pack be­cause we had so much footage, and he’s lived such a big life,” says Rashida (her mom is actress Peggy Lip­ton), 42, who shot 800 hours of footage and worked through 2,000 hours of ar­chives. “I just can­not be­lieve all of this ex­pe­ri­ence is con­tained in this one hu­man be­ing who just hap­pens to be my dad.”

Quincy uses the royal “we” to ex­plain his life and ca­reer, as in, “We were kick­ing booty ev­ery decade.”

There are quick trips through the land­mark mem­o­ries in “Quincy,” which fly by. “We Are the World” moves faster than his con­duc­tor’s ba­ton, and his work on Michael Jack­son’s cul­turechang­ing “Bad” al­bum is rep­re­sented by a brief mo­ment on the pi­ano.

“He was just shy, re­ally shy,” Jones says of Jack­son, whom he pro­duced after meet­ing on 1978’s “The Wiz.” (Jones pro­duced the film’s sound­track.) “He was sup­posed to sing me a song. And he went be­hind the couch and turned his back to me and sang the song.”

The doc­u­men­tary thrives on show­ing Jones’ every­day life and ma­jor hur­dles with the kind of ac­cess only a daugh­ter can pro­vide – lin­ger­ing on star­tling ICU footage of Jones after he suf­fered a stroke in 2015 that left him in a di­a­betic coma, putting him at death’s door.

“It’s very emo­tional, it’s like, ‘Whoa,’ ” says Jones of watch­ing those mo­ments on screen, where he’s heav­ily ban­daged and can’t re­call what year it is (but can joke “Sarah Palin” when his con­cerned doc­tor asks him to name the pres­i­dent).

Jones says there were no ground rules, off-limit top­ics or con­di­tions be­fore he granted un­fet­tered ac­cess. He didn’t even want to see the project un­til it was fin­ished.

“We had no con­tract. The con­tract was be­ing re­lated,” says Rashida.

Rashida is care­ful to keep her father – whose fam­ily calls him “LL QJ” (“Loose Lips Quincy Jones”) for his ten­dency to tell all – from ver­bal land­mines in the film. “But it’s truth­ful. Hon­estly, there’s not a drop of BS in this,” Quincy says.

“It’s very per­sonal. So you have to do it with some­one you re­ally trust. And this is be­yond trust,” Jones adds, look­ing ador­ingly at his daugh­ter, who gig­gles. “And this one, she has been around since she was a ru­grat.”

That har­row­ing hos­pi­tal ex­pe­ri­ence is im­por­tant to show be­cause it marked a se­ri­ous wake-up call for Jones.

He proudly points out that he quit drink­ing 21⁄2 years ago (“Ice cream is my new al­co­hol”) and has fo­cused on his health.

“That was a big step. With R ay Charles and Si­na­tra, I had enough al­co­hol for 40,000 men. Seven dou­ble Jack Daniel’s an hour with Frank,” says Jones. “Seven.”

“I can’t even,” Rashida says. “That was ALL the time,” he adds. “I smoked four packs of cig­a­rettes back then, too. Eighty cig­a­rettes a day.”

Hav­ing his daugh­ter nearby at in­ter­views also is a pow­er­ful pro­tec­tive force for the fa­mously talk­a­tive Jones, whose in­ter­views with GQ and New York mag­a­zine last win­ter are still re­ver­ber­at­ing.

Jones apol­o­gized on Twit­ter, call­ing his vi­ral com­ments about The Bea­tles’ mu­si­cian­ship, Mar­lon Brando’s sex­u­al­ity and Jack­son’s plas­tic surgery (to name a few) “word vomit” and say­ing that his fam­ily had an in­ter­ven­tion to keep it from hap­pen­ing again.

This short leash is clear as R ashida vig­i­lantly keeps her father on track and knocks back ques­tions that even veer to­ward per­ceived dan­ger with a flat “next ques­tion.”

The fo­cus on “Quincy” is pre­serv­ing the legacy and show­ing not only his pow­er­ful love of fam­ily but the whirl­wind of ac­tiv­ity. Even if that ac­tiv­ity is as­sisted at times by a wheel­chair, Jones keeps mov­ing.

“Our in­ten­tion was to sim­u­late the ex­pe­ri­ence of what it’s like to be in his world and to hang with him,” says Rashida. “Most peo­ple tell us after see­ing the film that it makes them feel lazy. You’d think it would be sat­is­fy­ing watch­ing that as your own life. But his re­ac­tion the first time he saw it was, ‘I wish I could live for­ever.’ ”

Jones also said he criedthat first time and ev­ery time he’s seen the film. He knows he won’t live for­ever, but the mes­sage of his life comes through in the movie. Fam­ily. Love. And keep­ing per­spec­tive.

“Don’t never give up. And also keep the hu­mil­ity with the cre­ativ­ity. And grace with the suc­cess,” says Jones. “Be­cause just be­cause you’re be­hind a No. 1 record does not make you bet­ter than any­body.”



Pro­ducer Quincy Jones is the sub­ject of Net­flix’s “Quincy,” co-writ­ten and co-di­rected by daugh­ter Rashida. The film pays trib­ute to Jones’ achieve­ments, in­clud­ing 27 Grammy Awards and 79 nom­i­na­tions.

Rashida Jones worked on “Quincy” for more than six years.


Quincy Jones was in the record­ing booth for some of the mu­sic world’s greats. He pro­duced tracks for Ray Charles and Frank Si­na­tra.

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