March 14, 2012 § 3 Comments
I’m starting this new blog with a homage to “Back on The Block” released by Quincy Jones. I love that recording. It flies in many different directions and the singers on it are just terrific and young and full of surprises which Jones has, as a producer, always been a master at making happen. Actually, I’ve been in love with Quincy Jones for most of my life. It began in a classroom in a school that sat at the beginning of Harlem (unofficially — 110th Street, which, of course, is below the “official” 125th Street). I sat there with his daughter, Jolie Jones, back in the sixties and the school was called New Lincoln — one of those great schools where you got to call your teachers by their first name. The best thing about calling your teacher by her first name is that whenever you have a fight with her about anything, it’s taken much more seriously because you get to say, “But, Harriet!!” back to her “Michael!”.
The school had once been a prison, and I actually think it’s gone back to being a prison though I haven’t been up there for a long time and the school closed long ago. Jolie was a beauty in those days when beauty wasn’t a somewhat vicious commodity the way it is now. And she was funny, which made her physical beauty even less obvious because the humor deactivated the glamor. And her father wrote music for the movies which was something then that I had always wanted to do (I actually bought soundtracks, when they were real soundtracks and not the silly compilations of soft-cock rock they are now). I also wanted to be an astronomer, but I didn’t know any astronomers and here was someone in my immediate world who had a father living out loud the dream I was having so it was much easier to want to be that than wanting to be a stargazer. At that time, Quincy Jones had only written the soundtracks to “The Pawnbroker” (his first, I believe), and “A Deadly Affair” — a complex, immediately forgettable movie starting Simone Signoret and James Mason. But that music, Quincy’s music, was unforgettable because it came out of a jazz tradition and movies didn’t generally have that kind of music playing on top of them — unless, more often than not, they were foreign movies. (I don’t believe it when anybody says jazz is an American invention. I’m convinced it came out of France). I saw every movie Quincy Jones ever wrote orchestrations for, whether they were good or not. It didn’t matter. More than the director, or the actors, or even the writer, I wanted to know what Quincy had been thinking about.