Quincy Jones has distinguished himself in just about every aspect of music, including as a bandleader, record producer, musical composer and arranger, trumpeter, and record label executive. He has worked with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Count Basie to Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson.
Born in Chicago in 1933, Jones was brought up in Seattle. He began learning the trumpet as a teenager. He moved to New York City in the early 1950s, finding work as an arranger and musician with Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, and Lionel Hampton. In 1956, Dizzy Gillespie chose Jones to play in his big band, later having him put together a band and act as musical director on Gillespie's U.S. State Department tours of South America and the Middle East. The experience honed Jones' skills at leading a jazz orchestra.
Jones moved to Paris, France, in 1957 and put together a jazz orchestra that toured throughout Europe and North America. Though critically acclaimed, the tour did not make money, and Jones disbanded the orchestra.
He became music director for Mercury Records in 1960, rising to vice president four years later. Also in 1964, he composed his first film score for Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker. After the success of that film, he left Mercury Records for Los Angeles to pursue what became a highly successful career as a film score composer. To date he has written scores for more than 35 films, including In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night, and The Italian Job.
In addition to his film scoring, he also continued to produce and arrange sessions in the 1960s, notably for Frank Sinatra on his albums with Count Basie, It Might As Well Be Swing in 1964 and Sinatra at the Sands in 1966. He later produced Sinatra's L.A. Is My Lady album in 1984.
Returning to the studio with his own work, he recorded a series of Grammy Award-winning albums between 1969 and 1981, including Walking in Space and You've Got It Bad, Girl. Following recovery from a near-fatal cerebral aneurysm in 1974, he focused on producing albums, most successfully with Michael Jackson's Off the Wall and Thriller, and the "We Are the World" sessions to raise money for the victims of Ethiopia's famine in 1985. In 1991, he coaxed Miles Davis into revisiting his 1950s orchestral collaborations with Gil Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival, conducting the orchestra for Davis' last concert. Jones holds the record for the most Grammy Award nominations at 79, of which he won 27.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Jones ventured into filmmaking, co-producing with Steven Spielberg The Color Purple, and managing his own record label Qwest Records. In 2010, he received the National Medal of Arts.
This Is How I Feel About Jazz, Paramount, 1956
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