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Quincy Jones reveals a big life, bigger heart in daughter’s doco 0

Quincy Jones needs ice cream. Any ice cream.

Sitting in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel, Jones murmurs his desire for his favourite snack in the direction of an assistant and magically, within minutes, he’s noshing happily on a container of coffee ice cream, even licking the top.

“Get it all, Dad,” his daughter Rashida Jones says, watching the scene.

Jones’ smile grows bigger as he continues eating. “I’m not missing a drop,” he says.

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At 85, the legendary producer, composer and arranger is still very much on top of his career while enjoying every bite of his impossibly colourful life. It gets a close-up examination in the documentary Quincy, written and directed by Rashida and Alan Hicks, streaming on Netflix following the film’s world premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

The filmmakers spent six years chronicling Jones’ generation- and genre-spanning career, which took him from a life of poverty on Chicago’s South Side to one of world-altering achievements and global adoration after Jones found his salvation in music and joined Lionel Hampton’s big band as a trumpeter at age 18.

Quincy Jones with his daughter, film-maker and actress, Rashida Jones at the world premiere of Quincy.

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Quincy Jones with his daughter, film-maker and actress, Rashida Jones at the world premiere of Quincy.

In just over two hours, Quincy pays homage to seven decades of Jones’ achievements: 27 Grammy Awards and 79 nominations; producing tracks for Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra; mentoring young Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith to superstardom; producing USA for Africa’s We Are the World for famine relief; and three marriages and seven children – all while serving as an inspirational role model who calls Colin Powell and former President Barack Obama close friends.

“There is so much, man, you just cannot do it. Too much stuff,” says Jones, shaking his head and riffing with his director daughter, who also starred in The Office and Parks and Recreation.

“It’s crazy. This is really a starter pack because we had so much footage, and he’s lived such a big life,” says Rashida (her mom is actress Peggy Lipton), 42, who shot 800 hours of footage and worked through 2,000 hours of archives. “I just cannot believe all of this experience is contained in this one human being who just happens to be my dad.”

Quincy uses the royal “we” to explain his life and career, as in, “We were kicking booty every decade. I’m serious, man”.

There are quick trips through the landmark memories in Quincy, which fly by at a furious pace. We Are the World moves faster than his conductor’s baton, and his work on Michael Jackson’s culture-changing Bad album is represented by a brief moment on the piano.

“He was just shy, really shy,” Jones says of working with the young Jackson, whom he produced after meeting on 1978’s The Wiz. (Jones produced the film’s soundtrack.)

“He was supposed to sing me a song. And he went behind the couch and turned his back to me and sang the song.”

Quincy Jones didn't see the documentary until it was finished, giving the film crew unfettered access.

Alberto E. Rodriguez

Quincy Jones didn’t see the documentary until it was finished, giving the film crew unfettered access.

The documentary thrives on showing Jones’ everyday life and major hurdles with the kind of access only a daughter can provide – lingering on startling ICU footage of Jones after he suffered a stroke in 2015 that left him in a diabetic coma, putting him at death’s door.

“It’s very emotional, it’s like, ‘Whoa’,” says Jones of watching those moments onscreen, where he’s heavily bandaged and can’t recall what year it is (but can joke “Sarah Palin” when his concerned doctor asks him to name the president).

Jones, who worked with Sinatra without a formal contract, says there were no ground rules, off-limit topics or conditions before he granted unfettered access. He didn’t even want to see the project until it was finished.

“We had no contract. The contract was being related,” says Rashida.

​Rashida is careful to keep her father – whose family calls him “LL QJ” (“Loose Lips Quincy Jones”) for his tendency to tell all – from stepping on verbal landmines in the film.

“But it’s truthful. Honestly, there’s not a drop of BS in this,” Quincy says.

“It’s very personal. So you have to do it with someone you really trust. And this is beyond trust,” Jones adds, looking adoringly at his daughter, who giggles. “And this one, she has been around since she was a rugrat.”

"We were kicking booty every decade. I'm serious, man," says Jones.

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“We were kicking booty every decade. I’m serious, man,” says Jones.

That harrowing hospital experience is important to show because it marked a serious wake-up call for Jones. He proudly points out that he quit drinking two-and-a-half years ago (“Ice cream is my new alcohol”) and has focused on his health.

“That was a big step. With Ray Charles and Sinatra, I had enough alcohol for 40,000 men. Seven double Jack Daniel’s an hour with Frank,” says Jones. “Seven.”

“I can’t even,” Rashida says.

“That was ALL the time,” he adds. “I smoked four packs of cigarettes back then, too. Eighty cigarettes a day.”

Having his daughter nearby at interviews also serves as a powerful protective force for the famously talkative Jones, whose interviews with GQ and New York magazine last winter are still reverberating.

Jones went on to apologise on Twitter, calling his viral comments about The Beatles’ musicianship, Marlon Brando’s sexuality and Jackson’s plastic surgery (to name a few) “word vomit” and saying that his family had an intervention to keep it from happening again.

This short leash is clear as Rashida vigilantly keeps her father on track and knocks back questions that even veer toward perceived danger with a flat “Next question”.

“They kicked my butt,” Jones says of past interviews.

He keeps his fellow star talk on the up-and-up in Quincy, such as when he personally calls Powell to attend the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“One critic said I was smooth-talking Colin Powell,” Jones says. “I don’t need to smooth-talk Colin Powell. We talk every other day.”

The focus on Quincy is preserving the legacy and showing not only his powerful love of family but the still-constant whirlwind of activity. Even if that activity is assisted at times by a wheelchair, Jones keeps moving.

“Our intention was to simulate the experience of what it’s like to be in his world and to hang with him,” says Rashida. “Most people tell us after seeing the film that it makes them feel lazy. You’d think it would be satisfying watching that as your own life. But his reaction the first time he saw it was, ‘I wish I could live forever’.”

Jones also admitted to tears that first time and every time he’s seen the film. He knows he won’t live forever, but the message of his life comes through in the movie. Family. Love. And keeping perspective.

“Don’t never give up. And also keep the humility with the creativity. And grace with the success,” says Jones. “Because just because you’re behind a No. 1 record does not make you better than anybody.”

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