- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2001

Quincy Jones found his groove accidentally at age 11 when he stumbled upon an old upright piano while breaking into a recreation center near his home to look for food.
His mother, who introduced him to music, suffered from schizophrenia and had to be institutionalized.
"I remember not having a childhood," he remarked matter-of-factly on last month's PBS "American Masters" profile about the man and his many accomplishments.
But the talented composer, arranger, conductor and instrumentalist managed to survive his younger years and succeed in the hard-boiled entertainment world. Winner of 26 Grammy Awards for his recordings, he is a crossover magician who made his name in jazz, bebop, R&B;, hip-hop and rap. He also produces and does scores for films.
As an arranger, he has guided the sound for stylists as varied as Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Sarah Vaughan and Lesley Gore. He produced Mr. Jackson's "Thriller," the best-selling album in the history of the recording industry. His 10-year-old nonprofit Listen Up Foundation supports projects for disadvantaged youth here and abroad, with special attention to South Africa.
"He's a genius. So why bother trying to figure him out?" says former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw.
Mr. Jones did not make peace with his mother until he undertook a five-year-long book project, his best-selling autobiography, "Q."
"Without someone looking over you up until age 9, you have a hole you are filling the rest of your life," he says, suggesting that some of his drive was an effort to fill the gap left by an absentee mother and a carpenter father too busy and distracted to nurture three young sons in the Depression.
Quincy Delight Jones Jr. was born in Chicago's South Side in 1933 and reared, after a fashion, in Louisville; Bremerton, Wash.; and Seattle. One of his friends in the Seattle area was the singer and pianist Ray Charles, and they performed together.
Mr. Jones married his high school sweetheart, escaped east with a scholarship to what is now the Berklee College of Music in Boston, immersed himself in hard-slogging big band tours and ended up in Paris studying composition with the renowned Nadia Boulanger. Lionel Hampton and Count Basie were among his mentors, and by his mid-30s he was the first black executive of a major white-owned record company, Mercury Records.
The business side was a revelation, and he caught on quickly. Today, he has no fewer than six financial enterprises under his control. Mr. Jones directs them with a perfectionist's zeal from his home in Los Angeles, in the exclusive community of Bel-Air. In the early 1990s, he became co-chief executive officer and chairman of Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment, a multimedia venture with Time Warner Inc. He runs his own record label, Qwest Records, and is head of Qwest Broadcasting.
Mr. Jones, 68, enjoys a mega-reputation among friends and followers as a talented phenomenon with an almost saintly gift for making and keeping friends.
"I'm just fortunate to have really old friends," he says, citing among them Clark Terry. Mr. Jones met Mr. Terry when he was barely 14 by coming up to the eminent trumpeter in Seattle where he was playing with the Basie band and asking to take lessons from him. "The band was so together, fun, dignified and confident. That was the sort of family I wanted to be in," Mr. Jones remarked onstage during a recent appearance at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. The two arranged to meet at 5 in the morning after Mr. Terry finished his club date and before the young Mr. Jones went to school.
"He was a little skinny dude a conscientious little cat, you know," Mr. Terry writes in "Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones," which features contributions from people closest to the author and contains no fewer than 13 pages of acknowledgments at the end.
If Mr. Jones has any enemies, they are very quiet. Requests for comment about him to the Source magazine, rival to the Jones-instigated Vibe Magazine, covering the hip-hop movement, were not returned. "Everyone has enemies," he retorts genially, then voluntarily dismisses the rumor that he once sought to buy the Source.
His personal life frequently has been as chaotic and wide-ranging as his professional interests. (The book's index even has a listing for "QJ's womanizing," followed quite coincidentally by "racism toward QJ.")
Married three times, beginning at age 21, he has seven children ages 8 to 48. Asked what he would most like to be remembered for, the man who began as a solo trumpet player in his teens and has even ventured into film production answers that he wants "to be known as a good father. I finally have learned to be that."
This weekend's Kennedy Center Honors festivities mark the conclusion of an eight-week cross-country promotional tour for his book resulting in interviews in nearly every media outlet available to aspiring authors with a certain celebrity cache. A brief touchdown in Washington in October saw him at a sold-out Smithsonian Associates' tete-a-tete with jazz pianist Billy Taylor at Lisner, an appearance at Howard University and a book party hosted by George Stevens Jr. (co-producer of the Honors show and telecast) and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, which drew a panoply of the District's best and brightest.
Typically, he hasn't come to town quietly, having agreed to be guest conductor for a star-spangled concert at last night's National Symphony Ball, whose theme was "the soul and spirit of America." He was planning to do it with his arm in a sling. He had broken a rotator cuff during a recent visit to see his friend Bono perform in Las Vegas.
That's nothing compared to more life-threatening injuries he has experienced in a long and eventful life, including nervous breakdowns and two brain aneurysms that brought operations with slim prospects for survival. Not surprisingly, he says the happiest moment in his life is "every moment."
"You start to realize you got maybe 30,000 days. I'm just tasting the flowers," he says.
"He always talks about other people. He is a person who is interested in you, which is why his book just gripped him," says longtime friend Janet Langhart Cohen of Mr. Jones' struggles to complete his book.
Gerald Early, professor of English and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, calls Mr. Jones one of the nicest persons he has met. "I can hardly imagine anyone in America who hasn't heard some music he had a hand in. There is no one like him who has covered such a range [of musical styles and projects]," Mr. Early says.
"It's an array unusual for any musician to be able to cover, especially for someone coming out of jazz," he says. "Most jazz guys develop what they do when they are young and take it to the grave. They can be very conservative. When they get a groove, they just lock out other stuff. They would look down on Q seeing him doing it all and think it is a sell-out."
Mr. Early also cites Mr. Jones as "a person who also wound up in his quiet way breaking racial barriers in the United States and helping permeate American culture that way."
David Baker, professor of music at the University of Indiana and leader of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, cites Mr. Jones' ability for seeing future successes, such as being able to look at a face on a television screen, as he did when he saw the still-unknown Oprah Winfrey for the first time and picked her for a lead role in the movie, "The Color Purple."
"I don't use the term genius lightly," says Mr. Baker, who once played in a band Mr. Jones organized for a European tour in the 1960s. "I've only known maybe five, maybe 10, original thinkers, which he is in virtually every area he touches. He is a quick learner, but he is so self-deprecating and never blows his own horn. He is somebody at peace with himself."
Marvin Hamlisch, the composer, arranger and conductor, refers to Mr. Jones as "the Santa Claus of the music business." More than Mr. Jones' musical talent, the 49-year-old Mr. Hamlisch says, is "this givingness."
"Q is not at all ever competitive or worrisome about giving true advice. A lot of people figure they are giving away the store and will lose out because of it. He is just the opposite. He is much more hip than I am. I'm still trying to figure out what hip-hop is," Mr. Hamlisch says.
Seemingly then, Mr. Jones has only one thing wrong with him. The man driven by passion, by rhythm, by the music of everyday life confesses that he can't dance.

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