Review: ‘Quincy’ Captures a Lifelong Love Affair With Music
Glenn KennySept. 20, 2018
Quincy Jones being interviewed by Rashida Jones, his daughter, in “Quincy.”Netflix
Quincy Jones has beautiful hands. Strong and steady, with long, elegantly tapered fingers. When those fingers hold a cigarette, they convey utter nonchalance; when they grip a pen over sheet music, they embody fierce purpose.
I noticed this because Mr. Jones’s hands appear frequently in the frames of “Quincy,” an affectionate and surprisingly comprehensive documentary produced by Netflix and directed by the actor and filmmaker Rashida Jones, who is his daughter, and Alan Hicks.
The comprehensiveness is not a surprise because I doubted the filmmakers, but because Mr. Jones’s life and career are far-ranging enough to justify a mini-series. A musician, orchestrator and record producer, Mr. Jones is arguably the connecting tissue among all significant modes of popular music in the 20th century and beyond. Here’s a very brief roster of artists whose work he’s touched: Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and Will Smith.
A preview of the film.Sept. 10, 2018
You get the idea. Perhaps one reason you could argue that he doesn’t get enough credit is because it might be impossible to give him sufficient credit.
As befits a movie directed by a relative, “Quincy” opens on some intimate notes. It is 2015, and Mr. Jones, in his 80s, is experiencing new health challenges. (In the 1970s, as a relatively young man, he survived two brain aneurysms.) He suffers a stroke and goes into a diabetic coma. (“Can you tell me who the president is?” a member of his care team asks Mr. Jones as he’s coming to; “Sarah Palin,” he answers impishly.) While he’s recovering, he’s told that he can no longer drink alcohol. He doesn’t like it, but he complies, and starts physical therapy as well. It’s not long before he’s back on a breakneck schedule, hosting the Montreux Jazz Festival and producing a stage show to commemorate the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The movie alternates between the present, with Mr. Jones on the go, and a retrospective of his life and career, narrated by the man himself. His hardscrabble early years on the South Side of Chicago are scary; his triumphs from the earliest points of his career onward are exhilarating; the racism he is obliged to endure throughout is infuriating.
As busy and productive as Mr. Jones remains, the contemporary parts of the film often show him looking haunted — by, for instance, his ambivalent feelings toward his mentally ill mother, who abandoned the family early on and reappeared at inopportune moments, and, more often, by memories of friends now departed. So even if you’ve seen it before, the clip of Ray Charles, who died in 2004, singing “My Buddy” to Mr. Jones at the 2001 Kennedy Center Honors is likely to make you cry all over again.
Not rated. Running time: 2 hours 4 minutes.