Photo credit: Sam Santos
Website: Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones (by John Clayton)
April 19, 2022
“Your music can never be more or less than you are as a human being.” Quincy Jones lives by that quote, a lesson from his teacher, Nadia Boulanger.
It’s wonderfully uncanny, the amount of music this man has touched. Whether he is composing, arranging or producing, he is creating on a high, world class level. Indeed, the world follows his artistic lead. He has a touch of gold and the leadership skills of a pied piper.
Quincy has not forgotten the people who have helped him along the way. It began early on with Ray Charles, who Quincy had befriended as a youngster in the 40’s. Count Basie also gave Quincy a huge break by asking him to write music for an entire album in 1958 (and again in 1963). How big was that? It happened during a period in the U.S. when, according to Mr. Jones, “The climate in the 50’s and 60’s for black performers or black people in the entertainment business was atrocious. It was atrocious!” Through it all, Quincy focused on writing and getting his music played. He wrote and arranged score after score for jazz artists, vocalists and pop stars. “I would sit up in my room and write till my eyes would bleed.” It was the quality of his music and his insatiable hunger for new styles and sounds that helped him find new opportunities.
Count Basie isn’t the only one who opened doors for Quincy Jones. Frank Sinatra insisted that Quincy be included in his music. “Frank Sinatra took me to a whole new planet!” It’s also a fact that Henry Mancini helped break Quincy into the film composing world, despite a bigoted and “closed-shop” Hollywood. You’ll often hear Quincy refer to the long list of people who have helped him and he understands the importance of returning those favors.
Quincy avoids over-arranging. He’ll write, but he’ll also allow room for the performer’s creativity to flourish. “You’ve got to leave space for God to walk through the room.” In 1969, Quincy combined the talents of Hubert Laws, Freddie Hubbard, Ray Brown, Grady Tate, Snooky Young, J.J. Johnson and many more high caliber artists, to record his jazz classic, “Walking In Space.” On this groundbreaking album, he followed his own wise words.
He is the ultimate People Person. He feeds off of the positive energy that surrounds people. He’s energized by it and devours it. As a result, his ear is always to the ground, discovering new names, new artists of every imaginable genre.
Writing film scores, big band compositions and arrangements, producing hits for Michael Jackson and many others, has just been the way Quincy rolls.
With all of Quincy’s history and his current involvement in global affairs as well as music, he is clear-headed and proud of the fact that it was composing and arranging that began his trajectory.
Quincy Jones reminds us, “Excellence isn’t an act, it’s a habit.”
John Clayton is a Grammy Award-winning bassist, composer, arranger and producer. John has performed with artists such as Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, Regina Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gladys Knight, Queen Latifah, and Charles Aznavour. In 1985, he co-founded the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and rekindled The Clayton Brothers Quintet. In addition to individual clinics, workshops, and private students as schedule permits, John also directs the educational components associated with the Centrum Jazz Festival and Workshop, and Vail Jazz Workshop.