An Evening with Quincy Jones
Reviewer: Gareth Ellis
If Quincy Jones was to receive a star rating, he would definitely get five without question. The man is titan of the music industry and shaped the music we hear today. He has worked with everyone from Michael Jackson (he produced Thriller, the best-selling album of all time), Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra – and his success is not just down to luck, the man has remarkable innate musicality and he also just has it. Whatever ‘it’ is. This one off production at The Royal College of Music’s Britten Theatre was an intimate mixture of live music, an interview plus a Q&A session.
Unfortunately, this is not a review of Quincy and his life – this is a review of the event, and as such it can’t be given as high praise as the man himself, although the night was an opportunity to have a rare glimpse into the life of the man, it was lacking in some areas, didn’t deliver in others and felt a bit slapdash at times due to slack production which could have been easily fixed with better preparation.
The evening began with a slightly odd feel, the auditorium was silent until an announcer asked us to welcome Quincy Jones to the stage, and then nothing happened. People looked confused, before there was immediately another person we were asked to welcome, who actually did materialise and burst into the first musical number with the Allstar Collective band. It seemed that Quincy was sat somewhere in the audience but this was never really clear for those people not sitting near him.
The first section of the evening was a number of guest singers tearing through songs from Quincy’s back catalogue and the most notable performances were given by Beverly Knight, whose dexterous voice hit the roof, Sarah Jane Morris, a uniquely sounding performer who had the audience in the palm of her hand and Sonique who kicked off the show with a bang. The other performers were all of a very high standard, and it was great to hear a lot of big number performed by a large band of consummate professionals. Slight disappointment was caused by the soul-heavy focus of the song choices, when Quincy’s work had far more range than that. It would have been nice to have a more diverse selection. Though, we were treated to a bit of Soul Bossa Nova.
The issues with the evening were mainly to do with technical failures – microphones failing to work or not being loud enough and pauses in the proceedings where there was just dead silence and nothing happening. At one point the band had to begin an improvisational jam to fill time.
Radio host and encyclopaedia of the music world, Paul Gambaccini, was on hand to drive the interview, though hisappearance on stage in a pair of slacks and a scruffy polo-neck shirt smacked of laziness and a lack of respect for the occasion.
The discussion that followed was nowhere near as insightful as one would have hoped. Quincy had problems hearing the questions and at one point he brought a woman on stage and talk about his and hers ‘peace cuffs’, something about religion not mattering any more, everyone being at one and love conquering all. Special guest, producer Rod Templeton was far more interesting and coherent when talking about his experiences working with Quincy in LA.
All in all, it was great to see a living legend in the flesh and hear some fantastic musical performances, but the night was held back by other things which got in the way of the enjoyment. Quincy’s legacy is incredible, but this night, sadly, was not as good as one would have hoped.