MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) - Quincy Jones, the trailblazing Grammy Award-winning producer and composer, was feted for his music and humanity at a 75th birthday party which brought Herbie Hancock, Patti Austin, Mick Hucknall and more to Montreux’s fabled stage.
Veterans Al Jarreau, Nana Mouskouri and Petula Clark as well as emerging stars Ledisi, Angelique Kidjo and Paulo Nutini took turns singing hits which he made over the decades.
His Grammy-winning goddaughter Austin introduced her coy rendition of “Makin’ Whoopee” by telling Jones, a thrice-married father of seven in the front row: “You know a lot about this.” She later teamed up with Chaka Khan for a moving duo of “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister),” from the film The Color Purple.
“Mood for Love” by James Moody, “Let the Good Times Roll” by Rahsaan Patterson, “In the Heat of the Night” by Simply Red singer Hucknall and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by Mouskouri were among highlights before all joined in a “Ai No Corrida” finale.
“No words can describe the emotions I feel — all these talented, loyal, giving people,” Jones told a sell-out crowd at Stravinski Auditorium in the Swiss town along Lake Geneva.
The nearly six-hour concert ended at two in the morning on Tuesday with dozens of performers singing “Happy Birthday” to the legend known as “Q” who admitted to health problems.
“I’ve had two aneurisms, but I’m glad God wasn’t ready to take me. I stopped drinking six months ago or I would never have survived this,” said the African-American who was born in Chicago on March 14, 1933.
The gala celebration, assembled by Montreux founder Claude Nobs and featuring the Swiss army big band, was billed as the main event of the two-week summer jazz festival, one of Europe’s most prestigious.
Jones, who co-produced the festival from 1991-93, bringing Miles Davis back to Montreux for a last concert months before his death in 1991, called it “the Rolls Royce of festivals.”
Babyshambles is confirmed for Tuesday night at Miles Davis Hall. Its frontman, British rock star Pete Doherty, was released from prison in early May after serving 29 days of a 14-week sentence for breaching his probation terms. He has been in and out of court in connection with his battle with drug abuse.
“Quincy is the biggest producer, composer and arranger of the 20th century. Nobody can match the spectrum of music — African, Blues, Gospel, Brazil,” Nobs said.
“We went into his catalogue of albums which is an absolute treasure — Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday — and got arrangements out of vaults. Some have not been played in 30 years,” he said.
Jones, among the three biggest Grammy winners of all times with 27 Grammies, told reporters that he had no plans to retire and was currently working on nine movies and three albums.
He is best known as the producer of the album Thriller by icon Michael Jackson, and as the producer and conductor of “We Are The World,” the 1985 hit single written by Jackson and Lionel Hampton that raised money for Ethiopian famine relief.
He recalled getting a break at 16 by lying about his age to work with Hampton in Seattle, adding: “We grew up quick.”
Jones opened his main rehearsal to the public for 60 Swiss francs ($59.35), while concert seats cost up to 380 Swiss francs. Some $50,000 in rehearsal proceeds will go to his Listen Up Foundation, which helps children.
He voiced concern for Amy Winehouse, the British singer struggling against drug addiction and a troubled personal life, whom he met at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday party in London.
“She kissed my hand and said she knew all my records. I felt a personal connection to her,” he said. “Her father was there, but I still asked her ‘Why are you messing up your life?”‘
“I understand this girl,” Jones said, comparing Winehouse to his eldest daughter Kidada with actress Peggy Lipton. “She’s so sweet, I felt the same conflict between temper and talent as with Naomi Campbell, who also keeps me busy.”
Editing by Paul Casciato