Music legend Quincy Jones gave an amazingly (and shockingly) candid interview to Vulture that sheds light on the contemporary music scene and Q’s musical perspective. At 84 years old, he clearly feels free to speak his mind in public, and wow, does he ever!
Here are 6 musical takeaways from the interview:
1. Jimi Hendrix was supposed to play on Quincy’s 1970 Gula Matari album, but didn’t show up for the session.
Quincy says Hendrix was intimidated by the presence of Toots Theilemans, Herbie Hancock and the other great musicians on the session. I think this makes sense, because even though Hendrix was a great guitarist, these other musicians were more seasoned and well-rounded than he was. (Hendrix wasn’t alone in feeling this way, btw. I’ve heard that John Lennon was intimidated by playing in front of the session musicians on his own albums!)
2. He’s most proud of the fact that “Anything that I can feel, I can notate musically.”
This is true “musician talk.” Priorities. Self-expression. When he was asked what he was most proud of, he didn’t reply “My Grammy awards,” or “My association with Frank Sinatra.” His priorities are musical. He could claim the exact same thing even if he wasn’t famous. This is important.
3. Quincy considers jazz to be at the “top of the hierarchy of music.”
His reason: Because “the musicians learned everything they could about music.”
4. He brought the spirit of bebop into the pop culture with Michael Jackson’s Baby Be Mine, from Thriller.
The arrangement snaps, crackles, and pops with bebop rhythmic energy, in a completely pop idiom. Quincy knows that most pop-based listeners will never listen to straight-ahead bebop, so he brought it to them on their terms. Quincy refers to this as “trying to feed the musical principles of the past.”
5. His musical knowledge is encyclopedic.
In this brief interview, he references Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, John Coltrane, Nicolas Slonimsky, bar mitzvah music, John Phillip Sousa, Bruno Mars, Chance The Rapper, Sam Smith, Alexandre Desplat, tango, Macumba, Yoruba music, Alban Berg, Brazilian music, and more.
6. He considers the biggest problem with current music to be that instead of learning for the past, and using it to their advantage, “Producers now are ignoring all the musical principles of the previous generations.
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