Very few people can justly claim to have influenced, and indeed led, worldwide musical tastes for over 60 years, but one man definitely can, and last night I had the privilege of seeing him in the flesh as the Royal College of Music played host to “An Evening with Quincy Jones”
For anyone that has lived in a cave or a lonely croft, Quincy Jones, or ‘Q’ as I feel I can now call him, is a music legend. If you haven’t heard of him directly, then you will have heard of some of his work. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, I could write a thousand word review just by listing all the great artists he has worked with as a Composer, Producer, Arranger, Conductor, Instrumentalist, etc, etc.
This night then was always going to be big. But I had no idea how BIG it really was until the Allstars Collective started the evening off with a medley of Q’s music. In that 10 minute compilation we spanned the decades taking in every musical genre on the way – jazz, R&B, swing, pop, you name it, there it was. The introduction was followed by a host of special appearances. In the programme, it said that songs would be performed by Beverley Knight, Mica Paris, Jocelyn Brown, Sonique, Sulene Fleming, Kenny Thomas, Jacob Collier, Sarah Jane Morris and Hamish Stuart. I assumed these would be videos and the big screen above the stage seemed to reinforce that opinion, but I couldn’t have been more wrong as one by one these musical stars came on stage to give live renditions of Quincy’s music. And every generation was represented. There was Jocelyn Brown, at 63 looking frail as she was helped to the stage, but by god sounding amazing. This lady can still fill an auditorium with her strong, passionate voice. And, at the other end of the scale, 20 year old Jacob Collier, currently working with Quincy, and going on last night’s performance a star in ascendance. The music was amazing and the audience loved every minute but the best was yet to come.
Onto the stage came host Paul Gambaccini to introduce the man himself for a Q&A session. What can I say? Q dominated that stage, answering questions in a candid manner that helped the audience get to know the man inside the legend. Whether he was talking about the history of Black American music and its roots in the slave trade, or the politics of the world today, Quincy spoke in a comprehensive and erudite manner and held the audience in the palm of hands for nearly 2 hours. Quincy and Paul worked so well together, with Paul trying to keep to his list of questions and Quincy, just being Quincy. His knowledge of music is amazing, as was some of his philosophical takes on life. I really loved his thoughts about facing difficulties. He treats them all as a puzzle, working on the premise that “a problem is something that causes you stress, whereas a puzzle is just something to be figured out”. At one point he was asked about the current music scene and differences from his younger days. As he pointed out, there aren’t any. There are basically 12 notes and however you arrange them, whatever you call them, all music comes down to that. As for rap, well as Quincy pointed out, there are records dating back to 1935 with rapping on them, so maybe its not that much of a new invention.
My favourite part of the Q&A, putting aside the audience questions, was when songwriter Rod Temperton came and joined Paul and Quincy on stage. Rod had collaborated with Quincy many times but, to me, most memorably on Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” albums, still two of the biggest selling albums of all time. You could tell there was a lot of love between these two musical legends as they talked back and forth, even finishing each other’s sentences at one point. It was amazing hearing them talk about Thriller and the Vincent Price rap at the end. Not only was it composed on the morning of the recording, but Vincent, despite having no previous experience, did the whole thing in only two takes. I could have happily sat in a bar with these two listening to their stories all night long but unfortunately all good things come to an end and this show did in spectacular style as the next generation of singers – The Royal Docks Community School Choir – took to the stage and sang “We Are The World” joined by all the performers and most of the audience. What a finale and what an end to an amazing evening.
My final thought as I left, they say you should never meet your heroes, well last night I did and I can honestly say “they” are wrong!
AN AUDIENCE WITH QUINCY JONES
The Royal College of Music
Prince Consort Road
London SW7 2BS
Sunday 28 September 2014 at 7:30pm