By Don Heckman
Say this about Quincy Jones: When he does something, he does it with style and class. Who else could produce a book with a Preface by Maya Angelou, a Foreword by Clint Eastwood, and Introduction by Bono and an Afterword by Sidney Poitier.
But, in fact, calling this package a “book” doesn’t really begin to describe what’s going on behind its coffee table size cover. The concept is simple enough: an overview of Q’s remarkable life, replete with photographs and memorabilia. And the key word is “memorabilia.” Because, in addition to its extraordinary collection of photos, and the narrative reaching from Q’s childhood in the ’30s to the present day, the book – superbly produced by Insight Editions — also includes exact replications of items from every stage of his journey.
Part 1, The Early Years, for example, inserts a small family photo album of images of family and friends; a Quincy Jones report card from 1951 (almost all A’s).
Part 2, The Music Business, features a reproduction of a few pages from Q’s Month at a Glance Calendar for 1955, with references to recordings and meetings with the likes of Ray Charles, Milt Gabler, Sonny Stitt, Lionel Hampton and dozens of others. Equally fascinating, there is an account book, revealing the specifics of payments Q received for dates with Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Dinah Washington, etc. There’s also a Visual Discography with covers from his albums, and the reproduction of a sheet of manuscript paper on which composers such as David Raksin, John Williams, Henry Mancini, Benny Carter and others have autographed their brief sketches of a few bars from one of their significant works.
Part 3, Film & Television, offers a black and white contact sheet of photos from the making of “The Color Purple,” and a reproduction of a thank you note from Oprah Winfrey.
Part 4, Mentoring A Better World, features a smudged reproduction of the sheet music from “We Are The World,” signed and scribbled on by most of the high visibility performers on the classic date.
Part 5, Life and Legacy, concludes with another photo album, this time in full color, surveying Q’s complete history.
Would it be possible to view this luxe package as a grand gesture of ego? Sure. But ultimately, isn’t that the case with all autobiographies? Or personal journals. Or, ahem, blogs? The simple truth is that Quincy Jones has been one of the iconic figures of our time – present, contributing and influential in so many ways that it’s impossible not to be fascinated by his story.
By the way, for those in the Los Angeles area, I’ll be having a conversation with Q about “The Complete Quincy Jones: My Journey and Passions” tomorrow night – Thursday, Dec. 4 – at the Barnes & Noble on 3rd St. in Santa Monica, at 7 p.m.