Listen Up: The Lives Of Quincy Jones Review

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PBS TV documentary about music legend Quincy Jones.


For more than 40 years now, the great Quincy Delight Jones has been breaking down the barriers between the various musical areas he has worked in, from big band jazz to rap and film scores to soul, along the way producing the biggest-selling LP of all time, Michael Jackson's Thriller. Friend, teacher and midwife to more star musicians than you can shake a baton at, here clearly is a suitable case for the documentary, if you will, rockumentary treatment.

What a pity then that this project has fallen into the hands of PBS TV director Ellen Weissbrod. If ever a man's story and career deserves a sober, linear telling so that its achievements can be fully assessed, it is that of Quincy Jones, a self-confessed workaholic driven by the memory of a traumatic childhood and since then unable to hold a non-musical relationship together for longer than it takes to have a couple of kids. Weissbord, however, is obviously labouring under the delusion that the life and works of Quincy Jones somehow need jazzing up with bebop-snappy flashbacks, fast-forwards, viewpoint shifts and soundbites, causing great irritation rather than the elucidation presumably intended.

These soundbites do, however, include such highlights as rapper Flavor Flav earnestly vouchsafing that "Quincy Jones is outstanding because he stands out," singer Billy Eckstine pondering "His childhood? I don't know anything about that - he's never asked me about mine!" and Barbra Streisand who-needs-no-introduction coyly telling us "I'm Barbara... (pause for effect of endearing modesty)... Streisand." Here's hoping Babs falls victim to the well-intentioned Weissbrod at greater length sometime in the future.

Pointless stylistic touches do nothing to enhance the story telling in this flawed documentary.