Features » Historic Journalism

Quincy Jones on the marketing of jazz and the likelihood of success of a “properly-backed chimpanzee”

Quincy Jones’ debut album, recorded in September, 1956

 

_____

 

I came across a classic August, 1956 piece in Down Beat, “A Tribute to Brownie,” in which none other than Quincy Jones pays homage to the recently deceased Clifford Brown, and expresses a critical eye on the business of jazz – and his fellow performers – at the time…Here is the prominent and most entertaining section of the piece:

 

Here was the perfect amalgamation of natural creative ability, and the proper amount of technical training, enabling him to contribute precious moments of musical and emotional expression.  This inventiveness placed him in a class far beyond that of most of his poll-winning contemporaries.  Clifford’s self-assuredness in his playing reflected the mind and soul of a blossoming young artist who would have rightfully taken his place next to Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and other leaders in jazz.

 In this generation where some well-respected and important pioneers condemn the young for going ahead, Brownie had a very hard job.  He constantly struggled to associate jazz, it’s (sic) shepherds, and it’s (sic) sheep, with a cleaner element, and held no room in his heart for bitterness about the publicity-made popularity and success of some of his pseudo-jazz giant brothers, who were sometimes very misleading morally and musically.  As a man and a musician, he stood for a perfect example and the rewards of self-discipline. 

It is really a shame that in this day of such modern techniques of publicity, booking, promoting, and what have you, a properly-backed chimpanzee can be a success after the big treatment.  Why can’t just one-tenth of these efforts be placed on something that is well-respected, loved, and supported in every country in the world but it’s (sic) own?

Except for a very chosen few, the American music business man and the majority of the public (the Elvis Depressley followers specifically) have made an orphan out of jazz, banishing its creators and true followers and adopting idiots that could be popular no place else in the universe.  I’ll go so far as to bet that the salaries of Liberace, Cheeta, and Lassie alone could pay the yearly cost of booking every jazzman in the country.

This is why it’s such a shame that Clifford Brown, Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, and others have to leave the world so unappreciated except for a small jazz circle.  I hope some of us live to see a drastic change.

 

_____