Quincy Jones is honored at the opening of Seattle's Northwest African American Museum, where Carlos Santana, Ernestine Anderson, James Ingram and Maya Angelou appeared.
A nearly full house at the Paramount Theatre wished Quincy Jones a deliriously happy 75th birthday Sunday night, toasting his life and career with an inspirational gallery of musicians, both local and world-renowned.
The concert, which included some delightful surprises, was the culmination of a week of celebrations marking the birth of the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM), which opened March 8. NAAM presented Jones with its first Lifetime Achievement Award Sunday.
In keeping with the museum’s theme of “journeys,” the show traced Jones’ career from Seattle’s Garfield High School and fabled after-hours nightclubs, to his rise as contemporary music mogul, garnering 27 Grammy Awards for jazz, soul and hip-hop records, and writing for TV and movies.
Heavily attended by Seattle’s African-American community, the extravaganza carried on for three hours with no intermission — but most of the crowd stuck it out. A feeling of joyous local pride was palpable in the room.
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One reason folks were glad they stayed was the smooth, soulful crooning of James Ingram, in top form with his trademark falsetto and physical theatrics. Ingram bent down on one knee, begging his imaginary lover to take him back, then got all the way down, doing push-ups, still singing.
“I was trying to get him not to do all that ghetto stuff,” quipped Jones in his garrulous, funny acceptance speech at the end of the show.
Guitarist Carlos Santana wowed the crowd with scorching guitar, occasionally extending the famously singing sustain of his guitar to scribbling abstractions. He also spoke for several minutes about politics and the spiritual dimension of music he shared with Jones.
Siedah Garrett sang the Michael Jackson hit “Man in the Mirror,” which she wrote, but was even more effective on her vampish version “Miss Celie’s Blues” from Jones’ soundtrack to the film, “The Color Purple.” Garrett recast the song as an homage to Jones.
Laura “Piece” Kelley’s spoken-word reminiscence of growing up in the Central District sparkled with community landmarks like Ezell’s chicken and the day Empire Way became Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Earlier in the show, she sang a 1920s flapper-style song, “Picture Show,” accompanied by her grandmother, pianist Ruby Bishop, a nice touch, highlighting the continuity of Seattle’s musical generations.
Renowned jazz singer Ernestine Anderson, a soul mate of Jones since their teens, was in good voice on the ballad, “My Ship,” and another Jones compadre from that and later eras, bassist Buddy Catlett, anchored a swinging bebop jazz quintet.
Throughout the show, video images were projected above the stage, including a surprise congratulatory speech by poet Maya Angelou.
“It is wise for people to honor their heroes and ‘sheroes,’ ” she said solemnly, then ribbed Jones about his good looks and notorious way with women.
Celebrating Jones’ eclectic embrace of everything from jazz to hip-hop, the show ended with a collaboration between Kelley, Garfield High School Jazz Band horn players Zubin Hensler and Robert Struthers, DJ DV One and poetry slam champs Steve Connell and Sekou on the Charlie Parker tune “Anthropology.”
Other performers included the Sound of the Northwest Choir, the Garfield High School Jazz Band, the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra (directed by Clarence Acox and Michael Brockman), Leah LaBelle of “American Idol” fame and the Del Atkins house band (backing Garrett and Ingram).
Jones was visibly moved as he walked from the audience to the stage to accept his award from museum executive director Carver Gayton and NAAM board co-chairs Ruby Smith-Love and Jeff Coopersmith. He asked for a moment of silence to recognize two recently deceased musicians who were among his early inspirations: saxophonist Charlie Taylor and trumpeter Floyd Standifer.
“This is my city, baby,” said the globe-trotting Jones. “I love you all from the bottom of my soul. I am so proud to be a member of this family.”
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org