|Quincy Jones at the Proms.
Photo Credit: Mark Allan
PROM 49 Quincy Jones Prom
(Royal Albert Hall, 22nd August 2016. Review by Peter Jones)
Take one 83-year-old musical titan, add a young, groovy orchestrator and conductor, sprinkle with rising star dust, scrape the whole lot on to a massive stage in an iconic venue, and spread over a great pop orchestra. That was the recipe for this festival of fine trans-genre music, part of the annual Proms season from the BBC.
Quincy ‘Q’ Jones has won 28 Grammys, worked with Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Dizzie Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra… oh yes, and Michael Jackson, plus a crew of hiphop stars from Wyclef Jean to Usher. And he’s still at it, nowadays promoting the embarrassingly over-gifted Jacob Collier(you remember him – the ‘talent like no other I’ve seen before’). Jones’s stable also houses Richard Bona, singer and bassist, and pianist Alfredo Rodriguez. Conductor Jules Buckley brought along singer Laura Mvula and Hammond organist Cory Henry, best known in recent years, perhaps, for his work with Snarky Puppy. The orchestra was the Dutch Metropole Orkest.
Pity poor Jules Buckley. It was his job to sift through more than 60 years of music to put together a representative sample of Jones’s output. And it has to be said he made a wonderful job of it: the opening medley was a corker – all blaring trumpets, twangy clavinet, scuttering bongos and wacka-wacka guitar. You almost expected the bust of Sir Henry Wood to sprout a ‘fro and mirror shades. Of course, these were but samples from a few of Quincy Jones’ film scores, and later we were treated to full-length renditions of The Pawnbroker (1965) and They Call Me MISTER Tibbs(1970) – the latter rattling along like an express train with a roaring Hammond solo from Cory Henry at the controls.
Identifying highlights is not easy; it was pretty much all highlight. First half closer Soul Bossa Nova (1962), with its comedic interplay between triangle and piccolo at the top and ‘bones and tuba at the bottom, was the crowd-pleaser to end all crowd-pleasers. The inevitable Michael Jackson mash-up of Human Nature, Billie Jean and Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’(all 1982) made it party time in the hallowed Hall. Instead I will just pick out three personal favourites.
First, Jacob Collier’s spellbinding In The Real Early Morning (2016), from his recently released debut album. This was an exercise in minimalism. You could hear a pin drop in the vast auditorium as this mere lad of 22 sang and played this lovely but difficult tune with a skill and sensitivity you could hardly credit. Second, Manteca(1973), an afro-cuban arrangement of an old Dizzy Gillespie tune, from which Rodriguez teased out an air of sleazy menace, rather reminiscent of Henry Mancini’s famous intro to the film Touch of Evil. Thirdly, a medley of classic funk-disco-r’n’b – Stuff Like That and the Brothers Johnson’s Stomp (both from 1978), featuring a quintet of very fine backing singers.
The greatest roar of the night came as the maestro himself appeared, stage right, to conduct the final number, Let The Good Times Roll. For yea, they had rolled mightily; this was showbiz at its very best.
The Quincy Jones Prom was televised and is available on iPlayer (LINK)