Quincy Jones has had several very successful careers, largely leaving jazz altogether by the early ’70s to make his money out of producing pop, R&B and even rap records. His earlier years were much more significant to improvised music. He grew up in Seattle and his first important job was playing trumpet and arranging for Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra (1951-53), sitting in a trumpet section with Clifford Brown and Art Farmer.
During the 1950s he started freelancing as an arranger, writing memorable charts for sessions led by Oscar Pettiford, Brown, Farmer, Gigi Gryce, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Cannonball Adderley and Dinah Washington among others. He toured with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band (1956), started recording as a leader for ABC-Paramount in 1956 and worked in Paris (1957-58) for the Barclay label as an arranger and producer. In 1959 Jones toured Europe with his all-star big band which was originally put together to play for Harold Arlen’s show Free and Easy.
He kept the orchestra together through 1960, recording for Mercury. In 1961 Jones returned to New York and became the head of Mercury’s A&R department, becoming a vice-president in 1964. Although he kept on recording throughout the 1960s, Jones’s focus shifted to writing for films and television. During 1969-81 he worked for A&M, founding Qwest Records in 1980, a label that has become more active in the 1990s.