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“The Band is his Orchestra/The Sounds of Delight”- A Riquespeaks feature series on Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones turned 84 earlier this month, in a year that has already seen the passing of such musical luminaries as Junie Morrison, Clyde Stubblefield, Al Jarreau and most recently, the cornerstone of Rock & Roll Chuck Berry. It is going on eleven years since we lost James Brown, who Quincy was three months older than, and we just lost Prince last year. It is now seven years since we lost the man who’s career is seen as Quincy’s foremost musical legacy, Michael Jackson. A few years ago, Quincy’s close friend and Montreaux Jazz Festival founder Claude Nobbs passed on in a skiing accident. But Quincy remains a unifying figure, one who speaks to the history of African American music in the 20th century and how that tradition can be carried on into the future and recognized as a key contribution to world heritage.

One very interesting project that Q had on the table during the administration of President Barack Obama was to get music and American culture in general cabinet level recognition in the United States. He was not able to get that project accomplished, though I’m sure he gave it his all. Although that particular project was not successful, Quincy has used his own music and albums as a platform toward that very same aim.

Respect and appreciation for Quincy Jones was something I grew up with, outside of his production for Michael Jackson. His work with M.J might have been the main reason I was checking for this “old jazz guy” as a kid, but the facts are, my father was a serious Quincy Jones fan. I grew up hearing albums like “Quincy Jones plays the Hip Hits”, and “The Quintessence.” My father highly respected Q as somebody who took the mantle from the great jazz composers and arrangers such as Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, Oliver Nelson, Jimmy Lunceford, Benny Carter, Gil Evans, and so many others. Q was highly proffesional, had trained at the future Berklee School of Music back when it was called “The Schillinger House”, and has also trained in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. He also was one of the first Black arrangers to be involved on an ongoing basis with film scoring.

Through all of this, Q was developing a particular brand of musical magic that prepared him perfectly to deliver three of the best selling, most incredible examples of American popular music ever assembled, namely, “Off the Wall”, “Thriller”, and “Bad.” Now I don’t mean to make these three albums the focus of Q’s entire career that encompasses so much of whats good in American music, from Count Basie, to Frank Sinatra, to The Brothers Johnson, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn. But what I will do with this series is talk about how the unique musical, experiential and spiritual gifts of Quincy Jones were present throughout his career on his solo albums, which really meant Michael Jackson was stepping into a rolling train when he and Q began work on “Off the Wall.” Which also made possible the later star studded success of “The Dude” and “Back on the Block.”

The different musical approaches of Q’s albums, from his skillful use of guest stars, his choice in cover songs, his incorporation of his portage’s compositions, his usage of tones such as flutes mixed with synthesizer leads, his dipping into the old blues and African styles, his jazz based pop language, and his strong rhythm sections manifest themselves on his pre “Off the Wall” and “The Dude” albums. So this particular series will focus on how Q innovated this genre of the producer led album, which is a genre that would later give us great musical works such as Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic.” Q really brought “The Producer” out as a star and musical artist in a way few have done. His skills as a producer were based in his skills as a composer and arranger, but when he reached the peak of his career he no longer needed to write or even arrange the tunes on his album. He mastered the very modern musical skills of setting the right tempos, choosing the right artists, both instrumentalists and vocalists, choosing the right songs, and a million other musical details that went beyond the magic of simply sitting at the piano or holding a guitar and writing a song. This magic of the producer is one that has been appreciated more and more by the music industry and the public at large in recent years. And it’s one I intend to explore in depth, from “Walking In Space” all the way to “Juke Joint”. Q’s success with MJ and his other R&B/pop hybrids in the 1980s was definitley not a fluke, but something masterminded by one of the greatest social musicians we’ve seen, the great Quincy Delight Jones!!!



Filed under A little Hip in your HOP, All That Jazz, Appreciation, Black Issues, FUNK, Give me My Flowers While I'm Alive, Merry Go Round Music, Music Matters, Rearview 20/20 Hindsight (aka "History"), Social Timing

Three Jedi’s Join the Funk: Vince Montana Jr, Richie Havens, Cordell “Boogie” Mosson

We lost three more true funk soldiers in the past couple of weeks, but with the visceral contributions of music they left behind for us to enjoy, their prescence will surely continue to be felt. Vince Montana Jr was a vibraphonist who started in jazz music in the Philadelphia area and became a first call vibraphonist for the Philadelphia soul artists. He worked on projects by Thom Bell as well as Gamble & Huff and was an integral memeber of MFSB. In fact, he was so integral, he was able to take most of the group over to Salsoul records and record great disco hits there. The Salsoul sound was very influential in disco, house and garage and continues to be the epitome of many people for good ’70s disco to this day. Vince was very interesting as an Italian-American making funky music with Black and Latino players and is a great example of how music unites. Here’s a great interview conducted with Montana before he passed, courtesy of Waxpoetics


Richie Havens is another one of those 20th century black artists who had a highly unique position in American popular music. I remember coming across Richie Havens albums like “1984” in my family collection and being curious as to how the music sounded. The images were pshychedelic and very interesting, and the music surprised me. Havens was a part of the 1960s folk explosion, and in several songs that he did, he emphasized that black music in America was part of the “folk” music mix as well. This is illustrated greatly in his classic song “Freedom”, which interpolates the great old Negro Spiritual, “Sometimes I feel like A Motherless Child.” Havens was able to be very successful with the rock and folk crowd, opening 1969’s legendary Woodstock concert. His passing is poignant for me because I was looking up his songs just last week, after the Blu Ray of “Django Unchained” came out and I heard his feirce, on beat rhythm guitar strumming on “Freedom”, featured in the scene where Django is captured and taken away from Candieland. Havens music should be appreciated for taking a slightly different path, and he should be considered a father to many artists today, especially black artists who are able to affirm their musical roots while not following the styles that are currently popular. It was also last week I heard for the first time, he made a version of one of my favorite songs from the disco era, Lamont Dozier’s “Going Back to My Roots”, popularized by Oddessy, one thing that is interesting to me is how the aggressive, on top of the beat African oriented piano part sounds just like the type of rhythms Havens strummed on his guitar:

Cordell “Boogie” Mosson is highly underrated, but very essential in the history of Parliament/Funkadelic bassists. He was very long tenured in the band, from 1972 to 1978 on bass, and then sliding over for a long tenure from 1979 until very recently on guitar. George Clinton said of him, “Boogie’s bass style lies somewhere between Billy Nelson’s raw Funkadelic groove and Bootsy Collin’s Parliament funk, which made him the perfect guy to play all the material live, or on either bands’ recordings.” Billy played bass on P Funk classics such as “Testify”, “Handcuffs”, “Cosmic Slop”, and “Nappy Dugout.” He also handled the majority of bass duties on live dates until Rodney “Skeet” Curtis joined the band. Boogie was distinguished on stage by his antler like head gear he wore with huge bug eyes. I really dig this quote from him, taken from Bass Player magazine, July 2005 issue featuring “The Bassists of P Funk”

“Dig a deep hole and throw me down there with my amp and my bass-leave the cord plugged in, because I’ve got to have a connection-and you’ll hear from me. I ain’t bullshitting. You’ll hear from me.”

Vince Montana’s Salsoul Hustle

Cordell “Boogie” Mosson and one of the stankiest basslines of all time

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