MIS­TER MU­SIC

No­body has had as much in­flu­ence on mod­ern mu­sic as Quincy Jones, as a new doc­u­men­tary at­tests.

Sunday Times - - Review - By Yolisa Mkele

Take a mo­ment to get com­fort­able and kick-start ye olde mem­ory ma­chine. Once it is up and run­ning, scroll through it and find any­one in liv­ing mem­ory who has been more in­flu­en­tial in mu­sic than Quincy De­light Jones Jr.

His CV in­cludes: Ray Charles, Frank Si­na­tra, Count Basie, Dizzy Gille­spie, Ella Fitzger­ald, Les­ley Gore, and Michael Jack­son, dis­cov­er­ing Oprah, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and start­ing Vibe Magazine.

If you are of a cer­tain age and mu­sic was play­ing in the back­ground then there is a strong chance that you were con­ceived to a song that Quincy Jones had a hand in. In a ca­reer span­ning six decades the oc­to­ge­nar­ian has recorded over 2,900 songs and 300 al­bums, been nom­i­nated for 79 Gram­mys and won 27 of them. He is one of only 18 peo­ple in his­tory to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Os­car and a Tony and pro­duced the best­selling al­bum (un­til Au­gust this year) and sin­gle of all time.

Watch­ing the new Net­flix doc­u­men­tary Quincy, you get the sense that the only things Quincy Jones was ever bad at was mar­riage and be­ing at­tracted to black women.

The point of all these stats and the doc­u­men­tary, which was di­rected by his daugh­ter Rashida Jones, is seem­ingly to leave peo­ple in awe at the scale of Quincy’s life. All those sto­ries about how hard your grand­fa­ther worked his knuck­les to the bone on a stolen farm are meant to pale in com­par­i­son to the end­less toil of a man around whom mu­sic or­bited for decades.

To be hon­est though, that is all just a bit of pro­jec­tion. The real sense you get from the film once you lift your slack jaw up off the floor is one of con­cern and love.

Kick­ing off in the mod­ern day the doc­u­men­tary starts with an awe-struck Dr Dre in­ter­view­ing Jones about the strug­gles he had to go through grow­ing up, and down the rab­bit hole it goes.

For peo­ple born af­ter 1985 it is easy to for­get just how long Quincy Jones has been around for. As a re­sult the rev­e­la­tion that Jones had close rel­a­tives who were ac­tual slaves is jar­ring. Liv­ing in 2018, the ba­nal­ity of overt racism is al­ways a dif­fi­cult thing to wrap one’s mind around. Things that would get mod­ern peo­ple thrown into jail now, were as com­mon and ac­cept­able as a sun­set to Jones right into his mid­dle age. Throw a schiz­o­phrenic mother into that mix and it is easy to see why Rashida is rightly im­pressed with her fa­ther.

In­ter­est­ingly though, Quincy is not just a smoke-blow­ing pa­rade for the most in­flu­en­tial man in mu­sic his­tory. In be­tween bits of ar­chive footage of a young Quincy con­quer­ing the world or scenes of an older Quincy, the cur­rent Mr Jones. This ver­sion is old, frail and bur­dened by a cou­ple of re­grets. One gets the im­pres­sion that Rashida made half the film to bathe the world in her fa­ther’s re­splen­dence and the other half as a warn­ing to him, a plea for him to take bet­ter care of him­self.

While tak­ing a daugh­ter’s care to not over­ex­pose her fa­ther’s flaws, one can­not help but no­tice pat­terns of in­fi­delity, ne­glect and im­plied al­co­hol that dog Quincy through­out his life. His ex-wives, those that par­tic­i­pated, all speak highly enough of him but one does of­ten get the sense that they’re speak­ing to the daugh­ter of the film’s sub­ject and there­fore adding a few dol­lops of honey to their story.

Ul­ti­mately that may be Quincy’s fa­tal flaw. The di­rec­tor and the sub­ject are too close, which means that Quincy’s high­lights and achieve­ments gleam like the sun on pol­ished sil­ver but very lit­tle prob­ing into the darker side of Quincy hap­pens. Dif­fi­cult ques­tions are ei­ther wholly avoided or brushed over lightly.

For ex­am­ple, if your first in­tro­duc­tion to Quincy Jones was the in­fa­mous Vulture in­ter­view that came out ear­lier in the year, then this guy would seem sani­tised to the point of be­ing barely recog­nis­able. In that in­ter­view, which he later apol­o­gised for, Jones, without mal­ice if we’re hon­est, spoke about how Michael Jack­son used to steal mu­sic, him know­ing who killed John F Kennedy, how shit the Bea­tles were and Mar­lon Brando hav­ing sex with Marvin Gaye.

In that in­ter­view Quincy was an un­hol­stered gun fir­ing off in any and all di­rec­tions. It was the kind of con­ver­sa­tion a man who is too old to be fussed with deco­rum was with a stranger in a bar.

For all its many pros (there re­ally are a lot of them) Quincy came off like a PG trip down mem­ory lane with your hy­per-ac­com­plished dad.

That said, in all the time you have spent read­ing this, I’m fairly sure that ye olde mem­ory ma­chine still hasn’t found some­one who has done more for mu­sic than Quincy Jones. That’s be­cause he is the G.O.A.T.*

*That’s the “great­est of all time”, you golden oldies

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