Singing Endorsements: Working with 'Uncle Q'


Singer Claude McKnight of Take 6
"The first time we worked with Uncle Q was on 'Back on the Block' and 'Q's Jook Joint.' At first you're in awe with the thought of working with him. But in the studio you find out what a down-to-earth man he is. And that's how he gets the best out of you. The best producer is one who gets something out of you that you weren't sure you had. His spirit is young, and he's still hip. But it's not a forced hip. He can hold a conversation with you whether you're 12 or 112. And that's a rare gift that very few people possess."

Artist manager Ron Weisner
"I was there for 'Off the Wall' and 'Thriller,' actively involved with Quincy, (engineer) Bruce Swedien and Michael Jackson. You have to keep in mind that Epic executives didn't want him to produce Michael, saying he's a nice guy but he's older and a jazz producer -- what does he know about contemporary music? As a true musician, Quincy is nine steps beyond when it comes to music, professionalism and input. He never settled; he pushed everything to the next level, beyond what anyone anticipated. Being that perfectionist is what created this monster ('Thriller'), and I say that lovingly. Once he's committed, he won't stop until it's done."

Songwriters Marilyn and Alan Bergman
Alan: "We're neighbors, and he knocked on our door (in 1966) saying he'd like to work with us and write the title song for the film 'In the Heat of the Night' for Ray (Charles). But when Quincy sat down and sang the song for Ray in the studio, he was sweating a bit because it was like playing for his surrogate father."
Marilyn: "When Quincy finished, Ray said, 'That's the maximum greens.' And then Quincy breathed a sigh of relief because he'd gotten that 'maximum greens' OK from Ray. That was the only time I've seen Quincy rattled. Afterwards, we all went out for some soul food."

Singer-songwriter B.B. King
"Quincy is a role model for all the young and old who appreciate good music. We worked together on the 1968 soundtrack 'For Love of Ivy,' doing the title track and another song, 'B.B. Jones,' which Maya Angelou wrote for us. That was my first time working with him. He was right there in the studio, with me looking at him and some of the finest musicians we have. It wasn't like nowadays with modern technology and many times the producer isn't right there with you. I tell you what: He's one man I've met that I'm in awe of. I've met four presidents and the pope, but it's still Quincy Jones."

Musician-arranger-producer Mervyn Warren
"After I left the group Take 6, Quincy hired me to do some singing plus vocal and rhythm arrangements on 'Jook Joint.' And we've done other projects together since then. He's always laughing, even in the studio. I believe that's a part of his musical genius: He works hard, but there's also this silliness that makes the work even more fun. And he always has a great story to tell. He's a mastermind at bringing people together, and somehow with that particular combination of each person doing what he or she does, something phenomenal happens. That's been the hallmark of his work -- when that magical something happens."

Songwriter-producer Glen Ballard
"I was a staff producer at Qwest Records for two years, learning how to make and produce everything from pop to R&B to modern English rock. It was an incredibly rewarding time. Then near the end of recording Michael Jackson's 'Bad,' Quincy wanted something great and new. Siedah Garrett and I postponed what we were doing and wrote 'Man in the Mirror' on a Saturday night. A couple of days later, Michael was recording it. Quincy creates a safe, encouraging and loving environment; he empowers you as an artist and contributor."

Rapper Kool Moe Dee
"I jokingly say 'Back on the Block' is the project that absolutely spoiled my rap career. That's because I couldn't go backwards -- the level of excellence and professionalism were top-notch. Hands down it was the best musical experience I've ever had. Quincy was like Yoda, a master teacher. He walked me around the studio, giving a history lesson and telling funny stories. And it was mind-blowing: Siedah Garrett is in one studio; Take 6 and Ray Charles are in another. He had four studios going at one time. He'd listen for 10 minutes, give his opinion and move to the next studio. I'd never seen anyone do that."

Singer-songwriter Siedah Garrett
"Working on 'Bad' was a really magical time. I watched and listened. Mr. Jones has the unique ability to not ride the trend but find the common thread. He told me melody will always be king and that the only thing that changes is the rhythm. He's a wealth of information. Plus homey can hang. He has hanging chops that he's cultivated for a few decades. Mr. Jones is much younger than I when it comes to hanging out."

Singer-songwriter Lionel Richie
"What makes a great producer and collaborator is someone who has you working hard, but you don't realize it. (Richie and Jones collaborated on 'The Color Purple' film soundtrack and the African famine fundraiser 'We Are the World.') He calms the room, calms the writer, calms the performers. Even when there are tight deadlines, it's like, 'Why aren't we working right now?' Instead, we're ordering ribs in a studio in New Orleans. It seems wrong, but you're still working hard."

Singer-songwriters Ashford & Simpson
Nick Ashford: "Quincy had part of the music for 'Stuff Like That' and asked me and Val to see what we could do with the track lyrically. Quincy is a Renaissance man who has that ear. What I like about him: He's so classy but yet so funky. And the music comes out so earthy. I love the way he orchestrates everything."
Valerie Simpson: "I remember when we went in to do the session. We were listening to the track but didn't know that Chaka Khan was rolled up on the floor sleeping. All of a sudden, she jumped up, went out and started singing the song! Quincy is also the first person who used me as a solo singer on his 'Walking in Space' album. I owe him a debt of gratitude for recognizing that I had a voice."

Compiled by Gail Mitchell with additional reporting by Mariel Concepcion in New York.