Quincy Jones finds that the ideas and his music are just flowing these days, he feels like a man on the sea, just going with the flow.
COMPOSER, arranger, producer, Grammy and Emmy Award winner Quincy Jones is known by most to be the man of many hats, and if his schedule of events for 1978 is any indication, that handle isn't likely to falter.
Currently immersed in his 30th year in the entertainment industry, Quincy is glowing over what he calls the most creative period of his life. As he puts it, "The ideas and the music are just flowing and I feel just like a man on the sea, going with the flow."
On the recording side of his career, "Q," as he is known by most, is following the success of his million selling soundtrack to last year's epic television series "Roots" with some new sounds on his latest A&M LP "Sounds…And Stuff Like That". Quincy says he "went a little bit left" with the album and the public reaction has been resoundingly right. Both the album and the single release title tune are tearing up the charts and burning the airwaves from coast to coast.
"Essentially the album features a rhythm section of some of my friends in New York, like Steve Gadd on drums, Eric Gale on guitar, Ralph MacDonald on percussion, Richard Tee on keyboards, and Anthony Jackson on bass. The album is funky rhythmically, with pretty, lyrical, melodic horns, with strings and keyboards on top.
"Patti Austin, who sings "Love Me By Name", is one of New York's finest session singers. Man, I've known her since she was a little girl and she's turned into one of the biggest talents around. And Chaka Khan…what CAN'T you say about Chaka! Her style and vocal quality are so unique and so bad!…she's just in a class by herself. There's just nobody like her.
Nick (Ashford) and Val (Simpson), I've loved them for years. Their music is just starting to get the recognition it deserves. And what was so beautiful was that when we got all these super-talented people in the studio together, they were each knocked out to be working with the other! They were all each others fans.
"These are all people whom I've admired for years, and it felt so great to be able to put them all together at last. I guess you'd say that this album really shows when I'm at in 1978."
During the recording of "Sounds…And Stuff Like That" Q juggled his recording schedule to allow for his role of producer for The Brothers Johnson, whose first two platinum plus albums he produced and arranged. Their third album, entitled "Blam", promises to follow its predecessors down the platinum brick road of success.
Quincy showed himself to be a man who truly enjoys his work as he described recording with The Brothers.
"It's really a job to work with George and Louis…they're so talented, both as musicians and as songwriters, with a totally open mind to new ideas. We spend hours in the studio toying with concepts for tunes, and when one of those ideas comes to life it's really great.
"Basically on this third Brothers album we are using the first two albums as a point of reference, but taking the music a step further. Everyone said that the second album, "Right On Time", was totally different than the first, "Look Out For Number One", and that is precisely what we were after.
"George and Louis and I have this thing about not making the same album twice and we constantly want to pursue new directions and diverse possibilities. I feel that "Blam" is the best album that The Brothers have made."
The third phase of 1978 is the taskmaster according to Q, for he is involved in something that he promised himself he would never get into again.
"In an eight year period, I scored about fifty-two films, and was fortunate enough to receive three Academy Award nominations for my work. After going nearly out of my mind doing films, I decided that I wanted to get out of it altogether, and redirect my interest toward the record business.
"I felt essentially the same about television, but when Alex Haley called me and asked if I would get involved in the music for Roots, I found myself bending my principles. Roots was the kind of project that I had to be a part of. Well, I've bent once again…"
"Early last spring my good friend Sidney Lumet called me. As everyone undoubtedly knows, Sidney is one of the finest film directors in the world. He directed, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, and Equus, just to name his most recent work. He called me to tell me that he was going to be directing a film version of The Wiz, and wanted me to be musical director. At first I told him that I couldn't get in it, I had too many projects to deal with as it was, and that getting back into film wasn't what I wanted to do at all.
"Well, my subconscious mind was in total control, which meant I couldn't sleep at night. All I could think about was the original film of The Wizard of Oz and the longlasting effect it had on me, and how turned on I was when I saw the original Broadway cast of The Wiz. About two days later Sidney called me back hoping to convince me to change my mind, and before he could even attempt to pitch me on how great it would be, I said, "I'll do it". So much for my principles.
"The Wiz is a 24 million dollar musical based loosely on the original film version, and the Broadway adaptation, starring Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, and Ted Ross, from the original Broadway cast, as the Lion. Lena Horne plays the Good Witch and Sidney does an impeccable job of directing.
"The hardest part of describing The Wiz for me is to not sound like I'm hyping it; but I've never seen anything quite like this movie. Diana is incredible. She has the uncanny ability to just capture and enrapture you with her emotion.
"Michael Jackson is making his acting debut after being a star all of his life with The Jackson Five. He is the epitome of a natural actor. Scenes that take seasoned veterans a while to pull off, Michael does in one take. The kid is going to be a major motion picture star, and this movie is going to let everyone know.
"Musically, my task was really a challenge, for it involved rearranging some of the original score written by Charlie Smalls, to make the music more workable for the screen, as opposed to the stage, as well as composing four new songs.
"I got together with my friends Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson and wrote "Is This What Feeling Gets?" which is Diana's big song in the picture, as well as "Can I Go On?" which is her opening song. I also composed the "Emerald City Theme" which is the biggest scene in the film when Diana, Michael, Nipsey and Ted arrive at the palace of the Wiz.
"The movie will be released close to Thanksgiving of this year and the soundtrack album will be released as a three record set with plenty of picture stories about the film. That's going to be three records of some of the best music I've ever been a part of."
If all of that is not enough, Quincy's other businesses are thriving as well. His publishing company, Kidada Music, is on the upswing, having recently had three copyrighted songs recorded by artists like Noel Pointer, Henry Mancini, Dusty Springfield, as well as being broadcast on the hit series "Saturday Night Live" and "Wide World of Sports".
His management company is kept busy handling his career and, in co-partnership with The Fitz-Gerald-Hartley Company, the career of his protegees, The Brothers Johnson.
Quincy summarizes the current rush of activity with a warm glow of satisfaction.
"Honestly I've never felt better or more creative in my entire life. I feel like I have gotten a second wind and the juices are just continuously flowing. I guess the only way to look at it is by saying I am feeling great in '78 and I'll be a whole lot finer in '79…Well, I never said I was a poet!"