By Andrew Stiefel
One fateful night in 1944, an 11-year-old Quincy Jones broke into the commissary at the Port Orchard Armory with his friends to liberate ice cream and lemon meringue pies. As Jones tells the story in his autobiography, he left the group in the kitchen to wander the halls, where he eventually discovered a spinet piano.
“I didn’t know human beings played instruments,” he recalls, “I touched it and every cell in my body said this is what you’re going to do the rest of your life.”
Now 83, Jones is an internationally recognized composer, conductor, arranger and producer with a recording-breaking 79 Grammy Award nominations and 28 Grammys to his name. He has worked with some of the biggest artists of the last sixty years, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, P. Diddy, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Dizzie Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, to name only a few. Most notably, he is the producer of the best-selling album of all-time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Long before Jones’ music was filling the airwaves, his musical career began at Garfield High School where he played in the school band. At that time, Seattle was a hot-bed of creativity and music-making and Jones quickly found his way into the center of it.
“In the 1940’s, Seattle was a tapestry of style and talent,” said Jones. “Ground breaking musicians paved the way for a new generation of black artists — men and women — dedicated to a life in music.”
Among his early friends was saxophonist Charles Taylor, who put together the first band that Jones would play in. They were later managed by bandleader Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, who would introduce them to jazz vocalist Ernestine Anderson, another graduate of Garfield High School. Anderson would become a legend in her own right, receiving four Grammy nominations. Time magazine once called her “the best-kept jazz secret in the land.”
Anderson’s family had moved to Seattle from Houston a few years earlier in 1944, anxiously seeking to keep their daughter focused on her school work. They arrived in Seattle at the peak of its jazz and swing heyday. Anderson quickly became a favorite among jazz clubs and local musicians. She left town a few years later after graduating high school to tour with the bandleader Johnny Otis, but she and Jones reunited again in 1952 in Lionel Hampton’s band.
On November 11, Music Director Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony will honor Jones and Anderson at Sonic Evolution, co-presented with Earshot Jazz. Started just weeks into Morlot’s debut season, the genre-defying concerts have set the tone for his electrifying tenure with the orchestra. Morlot has sought to build connections between genres by inviting local stars to perform with the orchestra, including Sir Mix-A-Lot and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.
“By doing this I felt we were sending an invitation to the community to experience symphonic music on a different level,” said Morlot. “I was also hoping, and it happened, that all of us onstage would also open our minds to what those collaborations could mean for us as musicians.”
Each program commissions composers to write pieces that respond to the artist or genres presented on the concert. This year’s program features the world premiere of a new work by Portland composer Kenji Bunch, Groovebox Fantasy, which is dedicated to Quincy Jones.
“We want Sonic Evolution to invite new people in the hall, experiencing symphonic music as it was presented way back, which means the first half is new works composed especially for the event,” said Morlot. “To honor Quincy, we’ve invited Cuong Vu to perform with us again.”
Vu, a trumpeter and the Chair of Jazz Studies at the University of Washington, will play his work, One, which was commissioned and premiered on the very first Sonic Evolution concert in 2011.
The second half of the concert starts with a tribute to Ernestine Anderson, performed by vocalist Grace Love. It will be followed by a tribute to Quincy Jones performed by his alma mater, the Garfield High School Jazz Band, performing side-by-side the Seattle Symphony. The tribute features standards that Jones produced for Frank Sinatra, including “The Best is Yet to Come,” “Come Fly with Me” and “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Don’t miss Sonic Evolution with Music Director Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony on Friday, November 11!BUY TICKETS
Posted on September 29, 2016READ MORE BEYOND THE STAGE