Judge Clark Douglas is a multi-talented musician. He can play the cowbell and the radio.
"You're the man, Quincy!"
Is there a more loved figure in the music industry than Quincy Jones? I'm not sure that there is. The man is something special. Yes, he's an immensely successful trumpeter, composer, producer, arranger, and conductor…but he's also a tireless humanitarian and a generally wonderful human being. I've heard so many different positive stories about Quincy Jones over the years from so many different musicians. Whether they're from the realm of film music, pop, jazz, or somewhere else entirely, they all love him. As such, when it came time for Claude Nobs of the Montreux Jazz Festival to plan a 75th Birthday Celebration for Jones, it wasn't difficult to secure a lot of talented people who eagerly flew up to Canada to participate in a musical tribute. The result is a joyous and immensely entertaining 156 minutes of terrific music. The selections are spot-on, the performances are tremendous and there isn't a single misfire in the entire batch. The 6-piece in-house band plus the larger Swiss Army Big Band provide the music in cooperation with a wide variety of guest stars.
Take a look at the set list and the performers involved here.
• "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" w/Herbie Hancock,
Patti Austen and Steve Woods
All of this material is terrific, but which moments stand out as the best of the best? Jones' take on "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" is exceptional, offering a rollicking fusion of dramatic thematic material and jazz riffs. Ledisi sings the heck out of "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," and later joins a larger group of vocalists to do a very strong version of "What's Going On." The exceptional harmonica work of Toots Thielemans makes "Eyes of Love (Carol's Theme)/Bluesette" a rather moving instrumental entry. Paolo Nutini and guitarist Lee Ritenour turn in one of my very favorite performances of the evening, a riveting version of "Strawberry Letter 23." The recent passing of Michael Jackson adds a certain measure of weight to Naturally 7's inventive version of "Billie Jean" (it could be convincingly argued that Jones' production work on Jackson's albums played a very large role in the pop star's jaw-dropping success during the 1980s). The massive "Stuff Like That," which concludes the show, is an appropriately spectacular conclusion, allowing everyone to contribute a little bit to the wall of sound. Some may be disappointed that Jones himself never gets involved, instead sitting in the audience and simply soaking in the music. Hey, it's his party.
The disc benefits from a superb 1080i transfer, capturing the proceedings with clarity and depth. Flesh tones are accurate, the level detail is impressive, and blacks are nice and deep. I have no significant complaints with the visuals here despite the expected interlaced quality, as the performance looks sharp and engaging throughout. Still, where this disc really succeeds is in the audio department. A wide variety of mic set-ups are employed throughout the proceedings, and thankfully the audio retains a very satisfactory level of consistency. The track is dynamic and involving, fully capturing the broad range of the diverse ensemble of musicians. One of the most important qualities of any concert disc is the ability to capture that, "You are there,"-level audio, and this one certainly achieves that. The only supplement on the disc is a featurette called "ThankQ: A Montreux Tribute to Quincy Jones," which details the efforts that went into making the event happen.
Whether you're a long-time Quincy Jones fan or someone with only a passing familiarity with his music, this is a disc that you should consider picking up. It's one of the finest concert discs I've seen recently and it's very difficult to imagine anyone actually disliking the fine array of material presented in Quincy Jones: The 75th Birthday Celebration—Live at Montreux. Very highly recommended.
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