“Q, this is for you!” proclaimed singer Patti Austin in kicking off the second of a two-night celebration of Quincy Jones’ 90th birthday at the Hollywood Bowl (July 28-29). The two-and-a-half-hour tribute delivered a power-packed sampling of the music icon’s multifaceted, illustrious career as an artist, producer, arranger and conductor.
Jones’ goddaughter Austin, Stevie Wonder and acclaimed newcomer Samara Joy were among the artists who lifted their divine voices in tribute. Backing them were core members of Jones’ longtime house band over the years, including music director/keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. and bassist Nathan East, alongside the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra led by conductor Jules Buckley.
And while Jones, born Quincy Delight Jones on March 14, 1933, wasn’t in attendance, there’s no doubt he felt the good vibrations emanating from the Bowl. Here are five memorable moments from Saturday night’s (July 29) performance:
A Wonder-Full Time: Reprising his surprise celebration appearance from the night before, Wonder joined Austin onstage for a memory-evoking rendition of “Betcha’ Wouldn’t Hurt Me” — a song the latter guested on originally for Jones’ 1981 album The Dude. After that, Wonder took an elated Bowl audience back to one of his classic albums, 1972’s Talking Book, with the song “You’ve Got It Bad Girl.” Before that, Wonder shared with the audience that he’d first met Jones when he was a 14-year-old “running around the Apollo Theater like I could see” and heard that Jones was in the building.
“When I met Quincy, it was magical,” added Wonder. “I’d grown up listening to his music and arrangements; he knew Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra and others. After I did Talking Book, he recorded ‘You’ve Got It Bad Girl’ for one of his albums and also did ‘Superstition’ with Ray Charles for another.” Concluding his full-circle moment, Wonder noted, “I want to thank you [Quincy] for everything you’ve given me — all the inspiration, the many times you said it’s not quite right; keep working on it, and for bringing people together through music.”
Before teaming with Wonder, Austin delivered a soaring read on one of her own gems, “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” A duet with singer James Ingram that was introduced in the 1982 film Best Friends, it became a hit single after being featured on Ingram’s Jones-produced 1983 debut album, It’s Your Night. Afterwards, Austin shouted out “two dear friends [now deceased] who made all of this possible”: Ingram and Marilyn Bergman, the song’s co-lyricist with widower Alan Bergman.
A Joyous Moment: With her reinterpretation of “Misty” — the Erroll Garner jazz classic that Sarah Vaughan recorded with Jones and his orchestra in 1958 — Samara Joy effortlessly underscored why she was awarded Grammys for best new artist and best jazz vocal album earlier this year. With a rich, full-bodied voice and subtle-into-soaring range and emotional nuances that belie the 23-year-old’s age, Joy and her performance — complemented by a riveting sax solo from another Jones collaborator, Larry Williams — called to mind Jones’ early start as a jazz trumpeter, arranger and conductor and his work with other female vocalists such as Dinah Washington. So did Aloe Blacc’s engaging rendering of one of Jones’ most famous arrangements: Frank Sinatra’s swinging take on the standard “Fly Me to the Moon” in 1964 with the Count Basie Orchestra also along for the ride.
Hudson’s Homage: Bringing forth the gusto that propelled “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” her signature song in the 2006 film Dreamgirls, Jennifer Hudson (who only performed on Saturday) fiercely punched her way through Lesley Gore’s 1963 feminist pop anthem, “You Don’t Own Me.” Jones, who broke the C-suite color barrier at a record label when he was appointed a vp at Mercury Records in 1961, produced the No. 2 single and also Gore’s earlier No. 1 debut, “It’s My Party.” Hudson’s performance — peppered with high, sustained notes — showed off her impeccable range as she strutted back and forth. Then as the music stopped, she strode offstage still belting out the phrase “you don’t own me” — prompting an audience member to yell, “You go, girl!”
The MJ Suite: Following a 20-minute intermission, the celebration got back down to business with a salute to the top-selling, award-winning collaborations between Jones and King of Pop Michael Jackson. Vula Malinga, one of the evening’s five talented background vocalists, jumpstarted the second half with a rousing performance of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” She returned to perform “P.Y.T.,” while fellow backing vocalist Avery Wilson energetically reprised “Rock With You,” “Off the Wall” and “Thriller.” With his mother Suzie Collier as conductor, Jones protégé Jacob Collier sat down at the piano for a touching take on “Human Nature.” Adding the icing on the segment was Siedah Garrett, who sang “Man in the Mirror,” which she and Glen Ballard co-wrote for Jackson. Her passionate and urgent delivery emphasized just how timeless that 1988 No. 1 song is given the current social and political climate here and globally.
Double Encores: The Bowl’s full house was treated to two encores. The first: Jones’ cover of “Let the Good Times Roll” with Bono, Ray Charles and Wonder from 1995’s Q’s Jook Joint. Trading verses for the 2023 version were Austin, Joy, Collier, Jones’ protégé pianist Alfredo Rodriguez and trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf with guest drummer Gregg Field. Then Wonder returned to lead them and the evening’s other performers in his 1980 song “Happy Birthday,” written to commemorate the first national celebration of Martin Luther King Day. Wonder played an instrumental role in securing a federal holiday for the civil rights pioneer. “It would be crazy for me to not end this celebration with something that Quincy was the first one to say I’ll do it,” said Wonder referencing a TV special that marked the holiday’s first celebration. If not for you [Quincy], all of us on this stage wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Among the other artists comprising the lineup for the two-night Quincy Jones’ 90th Birthday Tribute: A Musical Celebration were: John Legend (Friday), Angélique Kidjo (Friday), BJ The Chicago Kid (Friday), Sheléa and Stevie Mackey.