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A project of Jazz Appreciation Month, KNKX and Jazz24 celebrate highly regarded jazz creators who continue to inspire.

The versatile magic and enduring music of Quincy Jones

Music producer Quincy Jones, subject of the Netflix documentary film "Quincy," poses for a portrait during the Toronto Film Festival, at the Shangri-La Hotel on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, in Toronto.
Chris Pizzello
Music producer Quincy Jones, subject of the Netflix documentary film "Quincy," poses for a portrait during the Toronto Film Festival, at the Shangri-La Hotel on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, in Toronto.

Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. was born in Chicago in 1933. The family movedto Bremerton, Washington in 1943, then across Puget sound to Seattle shortly after the end of the war, where Jones attended Garfield High School.

When he was 14, Jones met Ray Charles, who was a teenaged professional musician in Seattle and a major inspiration who became a life-long friend.

Jones earned a scholarship to Seattle University, then another scholarship took him to study in Boston where he caught on as an arranger for legendary bandleader Lionel Hampton.

Touring Europe with Hampton’s band at age 20 gave Jones valuable experience as a trumpet player, and a fresh perspective on racism in America, sparking a lifelong passion for activism.

In 1961, Jones became vice president of Mercury Records, and the same year received his first invitation to score films.

Film credits through the '60s included In The Heat Of The Night, The Italian Job, In Cold Blood, and The Pawnbroker — featuring vocalist Sarah Vaughan.

In the mid-60s Jones was hired by Frank Sinatra to arrange and conduct his album with the Count Basie band, It Might As Well Be Swing. Jones worked with him until Sinatra's death in 1998, and never takes off the ring that Sinatra left him.

Jones produced several pop hits in the '60s and '70s, like “It’s My Party” for Leslie Gore and “Just Once” with James Ingraham. His film music carried over into television where he wrote several themes, including “The Streetbeater” for Sanford & Son.

The late '70s found Jones producing the soundtrack to the film version of the “Wizard of Oz” adaptation The Wiz, where he first met Michael Jackson. The two reunited soon after for Jackson’s breakout albums Off The Wall and Thriller.

Into his fifth decade, Jones was producing films and television shows, but still had his heart in jazz – finally working with Miles Davis in 1991 for a retrospective concert of Davis’ recordings with the Gil Evans Orchestra, Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux.

In the 21st century Quincy published his autobiography “Q”, and his daughter Rashida Jones directed an award-winning documentary called Quincy in 2018.

Speaking of awards, not many can compare to Jones. His 80 Grammy nominations is a record, winning 28 – plus the Grammy Legend award in 1992. Put together with Oscar nominations, Tonys, Emmys and countless honorary doctorates – Jones has a Wikipedia page just for his awards.

His importance to the world of jazz is just a piece of his total impact on the world of entertainment for more than a half century, but perhaps one of the most important. Michael Brockman of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra sees Quincy Jones as a bridge to the future of big bands:

“He provided a critical bridge between the big bands of the '30s and '40s and all the decades followed, and that 1959 album Birth of the Band led all of us here… ‘oh, this is the direction modern big bands can go now that we’re no longer playing dance music!’ but it was in a way that stayed attached to the special blues culture of American music.”

Musician, composer, arranger, conductor, producer, and activist: Jones has been one of – if not the most – influential jazz musician of the 20th century and well beyond.

Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.