December 21, 2015
Quincy Jones honored by SCL
Jewison, Bergmans, Grusin, Poitier attend holiday event by Jon Burlingame
LOS ANGELES—More than 300 members of the Society of Composers & Lyricists turned out to honor Quincy Jones with its Lifetime Achievement Award Tuesday night, Dec. 15, at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
"This is a trip," Jones quipped when he took the microphone to accept, adding that he felt "truly blessed" and hoped he could continue to be "an inspiration to young composers." He spoke of being a "raggedy ghetto kid" growing up in Chicago, later discovering movies (and movie music) in Seattle, and eventually landing in Hollywood.
It may have been his dream to become a film composer but in the early 1960s, he said, "they did not want brothers writing for the movies. Anyway, we changed that," he added to laughter from the crowd. He called film scoring "the best arena to test your skills as a musician," and spoke of the 35-plus movies he scored in the '60s and '70s, beginning with The Pawnbroker.
He recalled being a part of the Composers & Lyricists Guild of America in the 1970s and its efforts to try and retrieve music publishing rights from the film studios and TV network, a futile effort that led to the end of the CLGA but the beginnings of the SCL.
"You're more than a legend, you're one of the gods," rapper Common told Jones earlier in the evening. To the audience, he said that Jones "brought class, intelligence, artistry, soul and spirit" to music and film.
Composer-pianist Dave Grusin recalled meeting Jones back in the 1950s; he played on many early Jones scores and on his jazz albums in the '60s and '70s. Turning to the piano, Grusin performed "Theme for Inga" from one of Jones' earliest scores, The Slender Thread.
Lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman also saluted the composer, with Marilyn remembering that they had been neighbors back in the '60s when Jones suggested they write the lyrics for In the Heat of the Night. Alan added that "when he walks into a studio, he brings a lot of love," and recalled Jones first hearing their "How Do You Keep the Music Playing" (with music by Michel Legrand) at their house and insisting on producing it with singers Patti Austin and James Ingram.
In the Heat of the Night director Norman Jewison talked about Jones' music having "a heart to it, a feeling and a soul" that helped propel the film into the classic realm. He also shared amusing anecdotes about Ray Charles' recording of the title song: "He was so hip, I couldn't understand what he was saying!"
SCL president Ashley Irwin said Jones was "beloved by our community" and thanked him for "the joy you've brought to the world." SCL vice-president Charles Bernstein added, "wherever Q is, love happens, and cool stuff happens." Also attending, but not addressing the crowd, was Sidney Poitier, who starred in six movies scored by Jones including In the Heat of the Night and its sequel, They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!
Michael Boddicker conducted a medley of Jones' TV themes (including Ironside, Sanford & Son and The Bill Cosby Show) for accordions, kazoos and singers. Jim Gilstrap sang "Money Is" from Jones' score for the 1971 caper film $; Aloe Blacc sang "In the Heat of the Night"; and Siedah Garrett performed a new lyric about Jones, whom she called a mentor, set to the music of Sanford & Son.
Irwin also announced that the late Maurice Jarre and Michael Kamen had both been added to the SCL Hall of Fame. Also in attendance: flutist Hubert Laws, composer Stanley Clarke and drummer Harvey Mason. Ron Grant assembled the video montage chronicling Jones' life and career.
©2015 Jon Burlingame