Quincy Jones had a sterling jazz career in the 1950s arranging and conducting for top jazz recording artists. He also recorded with his own band. By 1959, Jones decided to invest in a touring production of Harold Arlen's jazz musical Free and Easy that used his arrangements for 18 musicians instead of a full orchestra. Free and Easy premiered in Amsterdam on December 7, 1959 and continued pre-opening performances in Brussels, Amsterdam again and Sweden in late 1959 and early 1960. On January 15, 1960, the musical had its official premiere in Paris at the Alhambra Theatre to rave reviews. But attendance didn't last and the production folded in February.
Feeling enormous guilt over miscalculating and stranding so many American players abroad, Jones formed his own big band with the musicians. In Paris, the band originally was featured on French TV in two separate programs. Late last year, Trent Bryson-Dean untied the two halves into one. Here's the Quincy Jones Big Band in Paris shortly after Free and Easy folded and Jones repurposed the group as a concert band.
The personnel featured Clark Terry (flg hrn); Floyd Standifer, Lennie Johnson and Ernest Vally (tp); Melba Linston, Quentin Johnson, Ake Persson and Jimmy Cleveland (tb); Julius Watkins (Fr hrn); Phil Woods and Porter Kilbert (as); Budd Johnson and Jerome Richardson (ts); Sahib Shihab (bs); Patti Bowen (p); Les Spann (g); Buddy Catlett (b) and Joe Harris (d). The tracks are Air Mail Special, Moanin', The Gypsy, Cherokee, Walkin', Big Red, Ghana, The Phantom's Blues, I Remember Clifford and Doodlin'.
Talk about a comeback. In 1961, Jones became vice president of Mercury Records, arranged and conducted for Frank Sinatra on two albums and became a prolific movie soundtrack composer and arranger before shifting to soul-pop.
Here's the Quincy Jones Big Band in Paris in early 1960...
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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