Friday, July 9, 2010

Quincy Jones: Q's Jook Joint (1995)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )

Quincy Jones
Q's Jook Joint
(Qwest/Warner Bros.)

This sumptuous tribute to, and proof of, the diversity and staying power of black popular music juxtaposes and celebrates jazz, quiet storm, rap, funk, R&B, and a few related demi-genres--in short, every kind of music with which Quincy Jones has been involved at one time or another during the last fifty years. In a sense, Q's Jook Joint is as much a tribute to Jones as it is to the music he loves, for only a musician with exceptional talent, flexibility, humor, and financial acumen could have thrived in the mercurial pop-music world the way he has for so long.

For that matter, who but an exceptional human being could snap his fingers and get eighty-three name performers to help out with his latest album? Each of these thirteen songs features an imaginatively selected all-star cast, and not one of them--not "Let the Good Times Roll" featuring Stevie Wonder, Bono, and Ray Charles, not "Slow Jams" featuring Babyface, SWV, Portrait, and Barry White, not "Is It Love That We're Missin'" featuring Gloria Estefan and Herbie Hancock--sags or creaks under the weight. Far from showing off, each performer acts like a team player, and as a result the music, more than the musicians, makes the joint jump.

Perhaps one can best gauge the scope of Jones' accomplishment by appreciating his ability to make the familiar exciting. By pairing Tone Lōc with Queen Latifah on the forty-year-old "Cool Joe, Mean Joe," for instance, he recalls what was good about both the fifties and pre-gangsta rap. He does the same for Me-Decade disco by turning "Rock with You" (the Michael Jackson hit Jones produced), "Stomp" (ditto the Brothers Johnson), and "Stuff like That" (ditto Ashford and Simpson) into move-bustin' motherfunkers every bit the equal of anything to which the current crop of Soul Train dancers is shaking booty.

That's nothing, however, compared to the wonderful performance he gets out of Phil Collins by turning over to him the lead vocal of Duke Ellington's "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me." Should this album win all the Grammies it deserves--well, that's just one more familiar thing it will have breathed life into.

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