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If you like Quincy Jones story, you might also like:
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Quincy Jones also appears in the video:
Crossroads of My Life

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Quincy Jones in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Pursuing a Career in Music

Related Links:
Quincy Jones Music
PBS
A Passion for Jazz

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Quincy Jones
 
Quincy Jones
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Quincy Jones Interview (page: 4 / 9)

Music Impresario

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  Quincy Jones

What kind of training did you have?

Quincy Jones: No training at all at that time, but after that I was probing and probing and waking up Ray Charles when he came to town, waking him up at 5:00 or 6:00 o'clock in the morning.


I was 14 years old when Ray [Charles] came to town from Florida. He wanted to get away from Florida and he asked a friend of his -- because he had sight until he was seven -- to take a string from Florida and get him as far away from Florida as he could get and boy, Lord knows, that's Seattle! If you go any further you're in Alaska and Russia! So Ray showed up, and he was at 16 years old, and he was like -- God! You know! He had an apartment, he had a record player, he had a girlfriend, two or three suits. When I first met him, you know, he'd invite me over to his place. I couldn't believe it. He was fixing his record player. He'd shock himself because there were glass tubes in the back of the record player then, and the radio. And, I used to just sit around and say, "I can't believe you're 16 and you've got all this stuff going," because he was like he was 30 then. He was like a brilliant old dude, you know. He knew how to arrange and everything. And he used to -- taught me how to arrange in Braille, and the notes. He taught me what the notes were because he understood. He said, "A dotted eighth, a sixteenth, that's a quarter note," and so forth. And, I'd just struggle with it and just plowed through it.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation


So was Ray Charles your first music teacher?

Quincy Jones Interview Photo
Quincy Jones: He was one of them. Bumps Blackwell was too and a barber named Eddie Lewis. Then we finally got a trumpet teacher named Frank Waldron. He was an African American with a bald head, and he used to wear striped pants, like the guys in the English Parliament. He looked like he stepped out of the Harlem Renaissance. He had a little flask of gin, and every night he'd take a sip three or four times and he said, "Let me hear you play something." He was from a legit school of trumpet players. We had our be-bop thing, our little look and the swagger, and our fingers all the way over there -- so incorrect! I played "Stardust" just like I played it in the nightclubs, because we were playing in nightclubs when we were 13 and 14.

How did you learn to play in the first place?

Quincy Jones: I just started playing. Just do it. Just blow in it and sound bad for about a year and then make it sound a little bit better, and you get a little band together, and then you get a few jobs. You take four guys that sound half bad, but if they're 25 percent each, they can give 100 percent, you know? There were four guys, including Charlie Taylor and Buddy Catlett; we got together and we practiced every day. I was writing this thing called "A Suite from the Four Winds," and on the trumpet parts I put a little asterisk and said, "Play all B naturals a half step lower because it sounds funny if you play it B natural straight." I didn't know there was a key signature of a flat on the third line that would take care of all that. But, you know, you just learn step by step. Somebody finally said, "Idiot! You know there are key signatures. There's one flat, two flats, three flats." And, "Oh yeah, key signatures. That's a great concept." It's 500 years old, right?


My grades in music were terrible before that, but then the love, this passion came forth, and that's when somebody lit a flame, a candle inside, and that candle still burns, you know, it never went out. I'd stay up all night sometimes until my eyes bled to write the music. I was writing a suite, a Concerto in Blue for something at the school, for concert band, and I was fearless!

[ Key to Success ] Passion


How did you learn how to read music?

Quincy Jones Interview Photo
Quincy Jones: I don't know. I just started and had to pay attention. It's logical though. If you're standing out from all the other people you know you're playing it wrong, so you have to understand the value of each note. There's only four beats in each bar, or six or three or whatever it is. You just use your mother wit, common sense really.

So you learned on your own?

Quincy Jones: Yeah. In school they had books and so forth. It's easy to get next to music theory, especially between your peers and music classes and so forth. You just pay attention. I had a good ear, so I realized that printed music was just about reminding you what to play. A lot of people say, "Count Basie and Earl Hines don't read music. That's amazing!" It has nothing to do with it. Reading music is just a way to document it so you can remember what to play at the same time, but the creation of music has nothing to do with it. That's a divine sense in a way.

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This page last revised on Mar 25, 2008 15:53 EDT