Jazz legend and star producer – The man behind “Thriller”: Quincy Jones is 90 – culture


He made Michael Jackson big and combined hip-hop and jazz. The musical landscape would be poorer without Quiny Jones.

Most people may have heard a lot more of Quiny Jones’ songs than they think. The world’s best-selling album, for example, “Thriller” (1982) by Michael Jackson? Produced by Quincy Jones. He was also involved in the previous album, “Off the Wall”.

It was the starting signal for a long and extremely successful collaboration: no one who has heard them forgets the violins from the arrangement for the first single «Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough».

The Arrangement Wizard

Michael Jackson’s play exemplifies what characterizes Quincy Jones. He always focuses on the voice and the song. The arrangement is perfectly “tidy”, as jazz connoisseur Peter Bürli explains.

Countless electronic and acoustic instruments cavort in it – strings, brass. Nevertheless, nothing stands in the way of the voice and everything glues the song together. So good that you start dancing involuntarily – the magic of the arrangement leaves you no other choice.

A friendship with consequences

Such perfection does not come out of nowhere. Even the young Quincy Jones had absolute quality standards as an arranger and producer in the 1950s. The image of the charming and glamorous doyen belies how hard Jones worked for it. And how cleverly he used his qualities as a networker.


A musical “bromance”: Ray Charles (left) and Quincy Jones – here on a recording from the late 1980s – shared a long-standing friendship.

IMAGO/ZUMA Wire/Betty Mickelson

This applies, for example, to his encounter with world-famous soul and R&B singer Ray Charles. Quincy Jones approached him when he was a teenager. The blind singer and pianist was 16 when 14-year-old Quincy asked if he could teach him how to arrange. Their friendship lasted a lifetime until Ray Charles passed away in 2004.

Team player without false shyness

Quincy Jones not only wrote for greats like Ray Charles or the singer Dinah Washington, in 1959 he finally took the bold step of forming his own big band.

Sometimes he fell flat on his face. For example, when he was insolvent and stranded in Europe with his entire big band. But it was crucial that the team player Jones got up again and again.

The musician took every chance and grabbed every opportunity by the forelock. This was also the case when Michael Jackson asked him in the late 1970s if he could recommend a producer for his solo career. Quincy Jones didn’t hesitate for a second and proposed himself.

An amalgam of old and new

At this point in time, Jones had not only arranged for jazz greats such as Duke Ellington or Frank Sinatra. He had also written film and television music and been involved in R&B productions. So he had everything it took to produce a Michael Jackson and thus ignited another step in his meteoric career.

Working with Michael Jackson was so glamorous that it eclipsed Quincy Jones’ later achievements. This includes, for example, his album “Back on the Block” from 1989. With it, he initiated a development that continues to lead to musical great moments to this day: the combination of jazz and hip-hop.

Today’s music world would be different without Quincy Jones. Of the more than 70 years of this career, not a single one was too much.

Radio SRF 2 Kultur, Jazz Collection, March 7, 2023, 9:00 p.m.

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