If you want a thorough documentary accounting of your legendary life in music, leave the job to your adoring daughter.
Rashida Jones of “Tag” and TV’s “Angie Tribeca,” didn’t have to arrange interviews for “Quincy,” the film she co-directed about her Emmy, Oscar, Tony and multiple Grammy Award winning Dad, Quincy Jones. She had the one she needed right at her feet.
Just following Dad around — sometimes in a wheelchair, often on his feet, enthusing, persuading, flattering, accepting the endless accolades as well as responsibilities a “legend” carries with him — made a great framework for a survey and appreciation of Q’s 80 plus years of life, 70 of them in music.
Jones the daughter has co-directed (with veteran jazz documentarian Alan Hicks) an adoring, broad but not particularly deep screen biography built around Quincy doing what he does best — even in his 80s, even after repeated health scares — producing, arranging and masterminding the televised star-studded opening gala of Washington’s Museum of African American History.
There’s no sense being modest at this phase in his Oscar-winning/Oscar producing career, but even as he’s feted, from Montreux to Stockholm, New York to Washington, there’s a refreshing lack of pretense to the sharp-dressed octogenarian at the center of all this fuss.
“I’m too old to be full of it.”
Rashida, his daughter with then-wife Peggy Lipton, is around him at all hours (glimpsed, herself, out of makeup) in all sorts of scenarios — in the hospital, backstage here, traveling there. She’s concerned when he’s at his sickest, emerging from a diabetic coma, encouraging the “26 hour day” workaholic and night owl to finally give up drinking. And she’s amused enough by his Energizer Bunny schedule to set the many MANY traveling sequences to Quincy’s themes to the comedies “Austin Powers” and “Sanford & Son.”
Rather than round up legions of admirers to sing his praise on camera, she and the crew shadow Quincy for a recording of Dr. Dre’s podcast, listen in as he sweetly arm-twists Colin Powell to be on his TV African American Museum tribute, watch him chat with Tom Hanks at rehearsal for that special (“I quit drinking 19 months ago!” “Wow! Great! How’re you sleeping?”).
Tapes of Sinatra singing his praises accompany clips of Ol’Blue Eyes introducing his arranger conductor on TV specials.
“I began to realize he was a giant!”
Ray Charles, who was there the night Jones was awarded Kennedy Center Honors in 2001, talks, also in voice-over, of Jones’s gift for hip and swinging arrangements.
His daughter also gets Jones to sketch his own story — rough upbringing in Chicago, mentally ill mother committed when he was just a boy, tempted by the piano, taken in by the trumpet at 14.
We’re all heroes of our own stories, and the owlish Jones (and his daughter) can be forgiven for boosting the “miracle” of his breaking out and skipping over his Berklee College of Music year (formative, most say), ignoring his years of drug abuse, skimming through his compulsive womanizing.
“I had messed that marriage up” he says, about this or that union. Of course, he covered a lot of this ground in a lot more detail in his 2001 autobiography
The always-outspoken Jones is considerably less so here. Rashida asks him “Dad, how do you deal with your ego and your art?” No, he’s got no clever quip at the ready, there. His little girl let him off the hook, let him give his killer “news quotes” to GQ and others.
But Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry, Dinah Washington to Armstrong to Dizzy to Ray and Basie, Sinatra and Michael — almost anybody who was anybody in music worked with Quincy Jones or wanted to. The wall of Grammys, the vast collection of framed photos with the famous, the gold albums, Samuel L. Jackson accolades backstage at the African American Museum gala (“Damn, Q.” is the quotable part), all underscore his place in music and entertainment history.
Whatever Rashida accomplishes on her own as the most famous daughter of this giant of music, with “Quincy” (premiering Sept. 21 on Netflix) she’s taken control of her father’s legacy, given it a light polishing, and chiseled it in stone. The man worked harder than anybody else in show business (Sorry, James Brown), encouraged and championed generations of performers and kept himself in the game long past the point others were calling him “a legend.”
“Quincy” hints at how that came to be, and maybe that’s enough.
MPAA Rating: unrated, profanity, alcohol, smoking
Cast: Quincy Jones, Rashida Jones, and everybody who’s anybody in popular music
Running time: 2:05