LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Plenty of celebrities are known by a single name, but Quincy Jones may be the only one instantly recognizable by a single letter.
“Q” — as he’s known to his colleagues, friends and fans — has won 27 Grammy Awards, a tally surpassed only by late classical conductor Sir Georg Solti, with 31.
He is also an eight-time Oscar nominee, a Kennedy Center honoree, and the recipient of the Legion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration.
In his work as a film and television composer and record producer, Jones has created musical moments that range from subtly brilliant orchestrations to instantly recognizable pop hooks. Here are his thoughts on just a few memorable sounds from his remarkable career.
“SOUL BOSSA NOVA” (FROM THE 1962 ALBUM “BIG BAND BOSSA NOVA”)
I got excited about bossa nova music when I went down to Brazil in 1956 and met Joao Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Then I did a whole bossa nova album in 1962, and I wrote “Soul Boss Nova” for that. It was one of Lalo Schifrin’s first record dates — he’s playing piano on that. Bossa nova comes and goes, then here comes Mike Myers 40 years later and makes that little track the “Austin Powers” theme song. Then Ludacris has a hit with it. That’s heavy. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but you just let it happen. It’s out of your hands. You just let the music live on.
You’ve got to serve a film, and sometimes you’re surprised at the music a film pulls out of you. You find yourself doing things you wouldn’t dream of. The bridge scene in “In the Heat of the Night” was like that. We had Don Elliot in there doing the mouth percussion and stuff. If you tried to over-intellectualize that moment, you wouldn’t think that having that music in there could work. But it does.
One of the frustrations I found in writing music for film was that you couldn’t always get the music to the screen. Optical sound couldn’t handle the music. We’d record on magnetic tape, and by the time it was transferred to optical sound, the bottom end just wasn’t there. “In Cold Blood” had a very low score, with cellos and basses and one of the first synthesizers on a soundtrack. Richard Brooks knew about my concerns, so he went with an RCA engineer to adjust all of the speakers in all of the 65 first-run theaters for “In Cold Blood” so that the music would be right. Man, it sounded great. I couldn’t thank him enough.
Bud Yorkin came and said, “I’m doing a pilot with a guy named Redd Foxx.” I said, “You kidding? I knew Redd Foxx at the Apollo 20 years ago. I can write his music right now — I don’t need to see the thing.” I wrote it in 20 minutes and recorded it in 20 minutes with four guys, including the great harmonica player Tommy Morgan. Still sounds good to me.
People say that music is the universal language, but African-American music is what they really understand. It’s fascinating that every country in the world has pushed their indigenous music aside and uses the music that’s come from jazz and blues as their Esperanto. It just blows my mind. I go to every country in the world and I hear it. You pick the country — you go out for a drink in the disco, midnight rolls around, and what do you hear? “Billie Jean.” Twenty-five years later, it’s still there.