Movie – Listen Up is the documentary that provides an intimate look at the life of multifaceted music icon Quincy Jones, who shaped four generations of American sound. In an unusual, kaleidoscopic way, this movie takes you on a journey from Quincy’s early life of poverty on Chicago’s south side, to his move to an all-white environment in Seattle, and his life on-the-road as a trumpeter with Lionel Hampton. It follows him as he leads his own big band, and moves into production, arranging and film composing. Filmmaker Ellen Wiesbrod gets very close to Quincy, capturing many moods and remembrances. There are many comments from the great stars that he worked with, i.e. Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Oprah Winfrey, Dizzy Gillespie, Steven Spielberg, Miles Davis, and many others including Jones’ family. Listen Up is a fascinating summation of his career in jazz, pop, R&B, hip-hop and other styles, and his film composing (In the Heat of the Night, Roots, In Cold Blood, The Color Purple and many more). He was the 1st black to write movie scores and the 1st black VP of A&R for a major record label. He produced Off the Wall and Thriller, the two albums that launched Michael Jackson into the pop stratosphere, and was the musical mastermind behind We Are the World. Only Sir Georg Solti has more Grammy Awards than Quincy Jones, who has 27. Listen Up is like a fine jazz number, layered and intricate with rhythm, flow and nuance.
Music – This newly released CD (2012) was actually recorded live in Koln, Germany (2008). The WDR (West German Radio) Big Band has been recording since 1946. They’ve won a Grammy and recorded many albums. Patrons can find them on Facebook (as well as The New York Voices). The current leader of the band is Michael Abene. If you like The Singers Unlimited, Manhattan Transfer or Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, then this album may interest you. It swings with remarkably inventive and complicated arrangements. The members of the band and the soloists are some of the best around. It is the best of both worlds: a dazzling, studio big band coupled with fabulous singers. The arrangements of standards, such as “Darn That Dream,” “Almost Like Being in Love” and “Love Me or Leave Me” make them sound fresh and cool.