Throughout his musical career, Quincy Jones (1933 – ) has
worn many hats. I recently watched “Quincy Jones:
In the Pocket,” a 2001 traversal of many of the key events
of his life. Narrated by Harry Belafonte (1927 – ), this
American Masters documentary begins and ends with Jones
visiting his childhood home in Chicago, while also providing
black-and-white footage and photos of the area, during the
1930’s and 1940’s. After discovering a piano in this setting,
Jones decided to pursue a career in music. This film charts
his growth upon discovering the Jazz scene, noting how
trumpeter Clark Terry (1920 – ) served as his mentor on
this instrument. However, Jones’ skills as an arranger
eclipsed and surpassed his playing career. Soon, he was
leading big bands and as of the 1960’s, writing film scores.
An opportunity to study with pedagogue Nadia Boulanger
(1887-1979) in Paris during the 1950’s paid big dividends
in the development of his skills as an orchestrator,
arranger and composer.
Jones was frequently interviewed throughout this film.
Other notable contributors included Clark Terry, ex-wife
Peggy Lipton of Mod Squad fame, Grammy award-winning
poet and professor, Maya Angelou, daughter Jolie Jones
Levine, and even former President Bill Clinton. There was
also footage documenting his work with Michael Jackson
on the record-breaking Thriller album, as well as his helming
an orchestra during a recording with Frank Sinatra.
In addition to his formidable musical skills, it became
apparent that Quincy Jones has the ability to bring famous
musicians together, and the making of his “We Are the World”
recording is prominently featured. However, his collaborative
skills are not limited to musicians, and have also been used
to effectively spotlight other humanitarian issues.
This installment of the American Masters series was
well done, and included both discography and filmography
bonus features. I’ve learned more about the personal and
professional life of this musical icon than I knew, and this
DVD is avidly recommended.