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Like a post-bop Martin Luther King with a conductor’s baton and complex arrangements,

Quincy Jones was a pioneer who helped pave the way for other Negro musicians in that so-

called Tinseltown. “Film has never been a Black friendly industry,” says director Nelson George

 

 

Cinematic Soul: The Soundtracks of Quincy Jones

 By Michael A. Gonzales

 

Premiering in 1972, Sanford and Son was an every Friday night at eight o'clock event in my Harlem household. "What channel does it come on again?" my grandmother would ask every week and every week I'd turn the television to channel four and patiently wait for the cool-ass intro music to kick in. While most program themes had lyrics, it was only fitting that a funky show like Sanford had a juke-joint instrumental to introduce this bugged junk man and his son.

Yet, being a nine year old music buff who bought countless 45s from Freddy's Record Shack on Broadway and read religiously the Soul Brothers Top 20 in Jet magazine, I began noticing Quincy Jones' name on several television shows including Ironside and The Bill Cosby Show, which featured the wild out track "Hikky-Burr." Although I had no idea who he was, I knew that he was the man.


To this day, the musical legacy of seventy-seven year old Quincy Delight Jones Jr. looms large over the landscape of popular culture. While our grandparents might remember him as the cool cat who once swung with Sinatra and Count Basie (released in 1964, It Might as Well Be Swing is a champagne music classic), most eighties babies will forever associate him with the post-disco blare of Michael Jackson’s mega-monster Thriller in 1982.

Yet, that collaboration might never have happened if the two had not originally worked together on the soundtrack for The Wiz, the wretched 1978 remake of The Wizard of Oz. Directed by the king of New York City cinema Sidney Lumet, who once described the film as urban fantasy (a genre his considerable talents were ill suited for after the brilliant social realism of Serpico, Network and Dog Day Afternoon) the picture, was a visual failure.

Though the much-maligned movie was almost made without Quincy’s help, who explained bluntly in his 2001 autobiography Q, “I just wasn’t feeling the songs,” he still stepped up to the plate. “I did it because Sidney Lumet, who had given me my first U.S. film-scoring break on The Pawnbroker, plus five more films, asked me to do it. I felt like I owed him more than one; I owed him a lot.”


Like a post-bop Martin Luther King with a conductor’s baton and complex arrangements, Quincy Jones was a pioneer who helped pave the way for other Negro musicians in that so-called Tinseltown. “Film has never been a Black friendly industry,” says director Nelson George, whose first feature Life Support was produced for HBO. “But, Quincy fought and charmed his way through to become Hollywood royalty.”

Though he would go on to create other great scores like In Cold Blood (his first Academy Award nomination) and In the Heat of the Night, it was The Pawnbroker that made it all possible.” Although Duke Ellington had contributed the soaring soundtrack to Otto Preminger's 1959 film, Anatomy of a Murder, helping to define the jazz-influenced film music in same way as Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein, it still took Quincy to take the art form to the next level.

Beginning his professional career as a be-bop trumpet player in 1947, Quincy had worked with Ray Charles, got scammed by Charlie Parker and opened for Nat King Cole in Europe. Later, as vice-president of A&R at Mercury Records, he signed Lesley (“It’s My Party”) Gore. However, once given the chance he never looked back. As critic Philip Brophy wrote in a 1997 Wire magazine article, Jones became “a key-yet ignored-figure in wrenching the film score from its Wagnerian cave and slamming it down in the midst of cross-town traffic.”

The Pawnbroker was recorded in 1964 at A&R Studios in Manhattan over the period of two days. Quincy’s old roommate, friend, engineer and studio owner Phil Ramone (who later produced classic sides for Billy Joel and Paul Simon) remembers those sessions well. “Quincy stayed up days and nights for weeks writing those songs,” says Ramone via telephone. “Things were just magical. Man, that studio was so small we used to call in our basement in the sky. Q’s superstar buddies would come in to play two solos and be out. We had guys piled up in the hallway, while others would be in Jim and Andy’s, the bar downstairs; I had an intercom hooked-up, and I would call down whenever I needed somebody.”

Two years earlier, Jones and Ramone recorded the whimsical “Soul Bossa Nova” in the same studio. Popularly known today as the “Theme to Austin Powers,” which featured a Roland Kirk flute solo, it was obvious that everybody loved working with Q. Lalo Schifrin, who would later compose the famed Mission Impossible theme, played piano on that session.

“It was like a juke joint up 112 West 48th, but it was home to him,” Phil Ramone remembers. “Nobody ever said no to Quincy; if he called, you were there.” With a Who’s Who of cool cats that Pawnbroker  director Sidney Lumet likened to “Esquire’s All-Star Jazz Band,” the line-up included Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones on drums, John Faddis on trumpet, George Duvivier on bass and countless others.

“The main titles use of vibes, celeste harpsichord and harp tantalizingly cast semi-jazz clusters against a monophonic semi-blues line played by thickened strings,” critic Philip Brophy observes. “It’s like hearing Ellington and George Gershwin simultaneously. It’s black and it’s jazz and all the space between.”

Despite the fact that Lumet had first approached John Cage and Gil Evans, he was more than pleased with Quincy’s efforts, which Jazz Improv magazine described as “a lush, string-laden mood pieces, interspersed with frantic jazz vamps.” In addition, Lumet was also impressed that Q. had studied under famed French composer and music educator Nadia Boulanger—who had also taught Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Burt Bacharach.

“She used to tell me back in France—and it took me years to accept it—that you only have real freedom when you set boundaries and parameters,” Quincy wrote in his bio. “When you have total freedom, you automatically create chaos. As a jazz artist, this was hard to swallow until I had to score films on a deadline.”

Author Todd Boyd, who penned The Notorious Phd's Guide to the Super Fly '70s: A Connoisseur's Journey Through the Fabulous Flix, Hip Sounds, and Cool Vibes That Defined a Decade (Harlem Moon, 2007), also cites The Pawnbroker  soundtrack as a personal favorite. “People sleep on that movie. To me, Quincy’s music went straight into the psyche of the main character played by Rod Steiger, who is a Holocaust victim who owns a pawnshop in Harlem. You can hear the depth of his paranoia in Quincy’s music. We can also hear that in the score he did a few years later for In the Heat of the Night.”

Forty years after its release, new jack film composer Scott Bomar still feels the influence of Quincy’s 1967 score for the Sidney Poitier feature directed by Norman Jewison.

“That soundtrack heavily influenced the work I did on (director Craig Brewer’s neo-exploitation gem) Black Snake Moan,” says Bomar, who also scored Hustle & Flow for the same director. In 2003 Bomar was musical director for a segment of Martin Scorsese's PBS series The Blues.

“Jones’ mixture of jazz, blues, country and pop was amazing. Quincy not only did the score, he did all the songs you hear on the radio and jukebox; all the music sounds like it comes from that particular world. Quincy also used vocals in a very original way; without a doubt, the Ray Charles sung title track is one of my favorite songs.” In addition to Charles, the Afroed maestro also collaborated with singers Donny Hathaway (Come Back Charleston Blue), Shirley Horn (For Love Of Ivy), Sarah Vaughan (Cactus Flower Theme), Johnny Mathis (Mirage) and Diana Ross (The Wiz).

Still, like Los Angeles based crime writer Gary Phillips and composer David Holmes (Out of Sight), many of Quincy’s fans prefer the Playboy chill of his caper movie scores. Mastermixing the sonic swagger of synthesizers with more traditional instrumentation, the eletro-fusion heard on the groovy The Italian Job (1969), The Anderson Tapes (1971), $ (1971) and The Hot Rock (1972) process a neo-noir delirium that still resonates with movie lovers and hip-hop crate diggers.

The track “Snow Creatures” from $ has been sampled by Gang Starr (“Alongwaytogo”) and Common “Tricks Up My Sleeve,” while The Hot Rock theme was lifted by both Jurassic 5 (“Improvise”) and Eminem (“Like Toy Soldiers”). “I like to listening to The Anderson Tapes or The Lost Man (1969) soundtrack when I just driving around,” explains Gary Phillips, whose crime novels include Bangers (2003) and DC Comics/Vertigo graphic novel Cowboys. “There is a great sense of pacing and rhythm in that music that just gets my creative juices flowing. For the crime and mystery stuff that I write, that music just takes me there. Quincy not only reflected the feel of those movies, but those soundtracks also captured the time period perfectly.”

While Quincy Jones has not done a full-length film score since teaming with Steven Spielberg on the majestic 1985 The Color Purple soundtrack (for which he received his eighth Academy Award nomination), his movie music is still as magical as it is distinctive.

“If you are putting together a compilation of great film music from the second half of the 20th century music, there is a good chance you will be using something Jones composed,” says writer/filmmaker David Walker, former publisher of defunct zine BadAzz Mofo. “More than anything else, Quincy Jones brought a sense of soul to film scores.”


Writer's Note: The Anderson Tapes is perhaps one of the best heist films ever made and Jones' soundtrack is the groovy foundation of many scores to come; if you don't believe me, just ask David Holmes.

a different version of this story was first published in Stop Smiling, Issue 32: Hollywood Lost & Found

 (c)  Michael A. Gonzales

14 May 2010

Source: BlackadelicPop

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Even after over 35 years, Sanford & Son is still the funniest show ever. Based on the British sitcom, Steptoe and Son (featuring Wilford Brambell best known to Americans as Paul McCartney's grandfather in A Hard Days Night),a show about a cantankerous junk dealer and his long suffering son who was his business partner. Television producer Norman Lear who had a hit with All In The Family (based on another British sitcom Til Death Us Do Part), bought the American rights to Steptoe then changed the format and lead characters to African American featuring bawdy comedian Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford and Demond Wilson as the son, Lamont.

Although the first season lacks such memorable characters such as Grady and Aunt Esther (who would make their debut in the following seasons), the chemistry between Foxx and Wilson is undeniable magic.

The funniest episodes of the season (many were based on Steptoe episodes were “We Were Robbed,” “Here Comes The Bride,” “There Goes The Bride,” and “A Matter Of Life” or “Breathe” (the scene with Fred entering the set with a surgical mask is priceless). . . . The first four seasons were undeniably the best. The show was plagued later by ego trips, salary disputes, and Foxx's walkout. Even after Foxx's return, weak writing and bufoonery lost veiwers. Even with its erratic history, S&S first four seasons was the greatest African-American television comedy, if not overall.—Dean M. Dent

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Poem: Fireman's Ball

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011
 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
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Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
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#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues


1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        

Enjoy!

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 27 May 2010 

 

 

 

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Related files: Why Chesiel Matters  Barry Michael Cooper  Shaft: Isaac Hayes' Revolutionary Soundtrack  Why Greg Tate Matters  / An Interview with Michael A Gonzales 

Such Sweet Thunder  / Boogie Down Inferno / Slow Down Heart / Soundtracks of Quincy Jones  / White Boy MusicReturn Of The Ankh by Erykah Badu