Sometimes, everything works in your favor. Earlier this evening, I was God - well, the The Voice of God, actually - during the NEA Jazz Master Awards Concert. I only get this opportunity once a year, so I do my best to take advantage of the moment. When you're posing as a deity in a crowd of real ones, you might as well take control of reality. Michael Bourne refers to this unique ability of customizing your universe as being a Master of Space and Time.
Backstage was a real hang. Old friends Quincy Jones and Jon Hendricks, who share a lot of history, swapped stories about an era of music that I know only about because I read books. They lived it.
But I'm not afraid to talk to anyone. So I struck a note with Hendricks shortly after I took this photo. At 86, he's 53 years my senior. And he has more energy then I do. No more than ten minutes later, I'm in a cab with him. We're meeting Quincy Jones and a couple of friends for dinner. This is really happening...
We gather at Greg Couillard's Spice Room and Chutney Bar, a private dining area in a Yorkville mall. The room seats about 40. It's 11:30pm. The place is ours alone.
Couillard, from one of Canada's oldest families, and David Nganga, a Kenyan, are two of Toronto's finest chefs. They combine dishes with an understanding of spices from every world trade route - Africa, Asia, Indonesia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, India. They brought five courses of their own creation, and each one worked. Giant prawns, short ribs, lamb chops on a bed of chutney, flying fish and callalou pepperpot, Alberta filet mignon with foie gras, a dessert sampler to die for, and biscuits so good that a Southerner like myself had to ask for seconds.
I did not bring a microphone, nor a recorder. This wasn't the right time for such things. Anyway, we were improvising. What I can tell you is that the conversation went many places - New Orleans, Brazil, Toledo [OH], Dubai, Vegas, Miami's South Beach, New York. The stories were many - Q on the road with Lionel Hampton, Sing a Song of Basie, teaching kids about jazz and democracy, you name it.
What fascinated me most about Quincy Jones was his understanding of international politics. He knows the internal dynamics of most nation states, including the United States. He's an international businessman and a humanitarian. He has to know it all.
What you need to know about Quincy is that he is jazz. He never sleeps. He uses his power and wealth to affect social change. He's sending an envoy of New Orleans musicians to the favelas of Rio this year to show the rest of the world that poverty exists, and that it's inhumane. He's followed everywhere he goes (except to tonight's dinner) by a camera crew. They're making video podcasts. You should watch them.
He loves great food. His favorite is gumbo from New Orleans' Dooky Chase Restaurant, run by the Queen of Creole cooking, Leah Chase. Q knows the Chase family. He has the gumbo recipe, and someone cooks it for him when he's nowhere near New Orleans.
Quincy is also opening five clubs this year, in the US and abroad. They're called Q's Jook Joints. Frankly, wherever Quincy Jones is, that's where you'll find the real Q's Jook Joint. I'm glad that for one night, I got to jam there with two masters - Quincy Jones and Jon Hendricks.
When you're a Master of the Universe, even for just one day, you'd better know how to improvise.
David Baker presented the 2008 NEA Jazz Master Award to Quincy Jones. Jones gave a Delight-ful acceptance speech. His words came straight from the heart. Give it a listen:
That's how Quincy Jones feels about jazz.
Perhaps you heard his interview with Rhonda Hamilton?
The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra played another Jones original:
NEA Jazz Masters Joe Wilder, Paquito D'Rivera and Candido Camero joined the orchestra onstage for a jam session:
A perfect end to a perfect night, right? I thought so too. But as luck would have it, my perfect night was only beginning...
- Josh Jackson
The NEA Jazz Master Awards evening is one of the main events at IAJE. This year, the concert featured the music of Quincy Jones, one of this year's honorees. NEA Jazz Master David Baker, an alumnus of the Quincy Jones Band back in the day, directed the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra for the duration. Set One included:
More to come. - Josh
If you've ever listened to Live at the Sands, you've heard Quincy Jones' work with Frank Sinatra. Quincy was, in fact, the arranger for a number of Sinatra recordings. At the NEA Jazz Master Awards Concert, The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra had the pleasure of playing some those charts. Kurt Elling had the unenviable position of Chairman of the Board.
Check out what they did together:
Kurt is such a great cat. I watched him backstage, pacing back and forth before the set. Hope he's relaxing now.
- Josh Jackson
Let's welcome back to the stage at the NEA Jazz Master Awards Concert (blog version), the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, as they perform more of Quincy Jones' music. Here we go:
No doubt you'll recognize the next song:
Now back to the show. Next up - the fifth element. Earth, Fire, Air, Water, Quincy Jones...