Quincy Jones is one of those chameleons of modern American music who can effortlessly craft his approach to blend in with whatever artists he happens to be working with. Probably a lot of younger listeners will associate him with the likes of Michael Jackson, for better or worse, but anyone with a broader knowledge of Jones' contributions to both jazz and pop music will be blown away by this superlative Live at Montreux concert which traces his recording and arranging career from the early 1950s on, and joyously keeps Jones in the big band jazz format where he originally gained renown.
The aural pleasures of the set are so copious that it's truly hard to single out individual moments, but things start out beautifully with the concert opener "Kingfish" (featuring some great blowing by Gerald Albright, though one wonders why they shot keyboardist Greg Phillinganes' nifty, if short, solo from a vantage where his hands can't be seen, especially when they had a camera placed to shoot his hands, as is evidenced by many other shots). Jones moves on to "Stockholm Sweetnin'", where he masterfully orchestrates Clifford Brown's solo from the original recording. Patti Austin joins the band for "Perdido" and "Shiny Stockings," among others. Chaka Khan shows up for a number of tunes, including the gorgeous Bernard Ighner tune "Everything Must Change," as well as a smokin' duet with Austin on "Dirty Dozens." And even the likes of Phil Collins contributes some nice moments on "After You've Gone" and the concert closer "Let the Good Times Roll" (where he's joined by all the other guest artists). There are a host of other great names who may be unfamiliar to the public at large, but well-known to jazz aficianados (e.g., Toots Thielemans, the master harmonica player) that all contribute beautiful playing on one song after another.
But it is Jones himself, simply a legend (and rightfully so), who is front and center throughout this concert, literally and figuratively. Wonderfully at ease in front of the packed audience (where he repeatedly sees and points out lifelong friends), performing charts from over 50 years of magical music making, Jones reveals himself not only as a master arranger and conductor, but, well, just a really nice guy, extremely generous with his band (coaxing the audience to applaud virtually every solo).
This is one of the best, if not the best, of the Live in Montreux series and is pure aural gold for any lover of fine jazz and jazz-inflected pop.