remarkable life is explored in depth in QUINCY, the new Netflix documentary
shot by his daughter, Rashida Jones, and Alan Hicks. The 90-minute film
utilizes home movies, archival footage, interviews and first-person narration
to portray Jones' multiple sides as musician and man.
The grandson of an ex-slave, Jones grew up poor in the black ghetto of
Chicago's South Side ("I didn't meet a white man until I was eleven
years old," he said). His childhood was an unhappy one: at six he
watched his schizophrenic mother being taken off in a straitjacket. She
was locked up in an asylum and he didn't see her again until he was an
adult, and then only briefly. "Never having had a mother left a hole
in my life," he confides. "I didn't realize it until I was older,
but it affected my relationship to women. It also drove me to fill that
void with work. I became a workaholic, to such an extent that I eventually
suffered a nervous breakdown."
to suggest that Jones was a psychological basket-case. Despite his mental
and physical problems--he has survived two brain aneurysms and a diabetic
stroke--he has lived an amazingly productive life. He played trumpet at
22 in Lionel Hampton's band; wrote arrangements for Count Basie, Oscar
Pettiford, Art Farmer and countless others; traveled in Europe with the
Dizzy Gillespie band; studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris;
worked as an a & r man for Mercury Records; served as musical director
for Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra; composed TV and film scores (winning
an Oscar in 1976 for "In Cold Blood"); produced movies ("The
Color Purple"); collaborated with Michael Jackson on the best-selling
record of all time, "Thriller"; and more, much more.
Jones' seventy years in music are encapsulated in QUINCY. There are numerous
scenes depicting him at work, on stage and in the studio, with the likes
of Sinatra, Jackson, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and Dinah
Washington (among many others). Another narrative thread focuses on the
challenges he faced in producing the TV show celebrating the opening of
the Smithsonian African-American Museum in Washington, DC. The seminal
affair featured such luminaries as Gen. Colin Powell and President Barack
Obama--and of course Quincy Jones himself.
Jones' professional accomplishments are well covered in QUINCY, but the
film's most affecting moments come when he talks about his private life,
his battles against racism, his thoughts about America, his struggle to
be a good husband and father (he's been married three times and has seven
Jones' honesty, humor and humility, and his essentially warm, giving nature,
help lift this bio-pic above the ordinary. What also makes QUINCY unique
is the score he wrote for the film. Like so much of his music, it swings
like mad from beginning to end.