Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Album: Quincy Jones, Q: Soul Bossa Nostra (Qwest/Interscope)

Soul Bossa Nostra: the title, a pun linking Quincy Jones' emblematic '60s instrumental "Soul Bossa Nova" (of Austin Powers dance-routine fame) with intimations of his don-like hegemony over black American music of the last five or six decades, gives some impression of the producer's massive, mafioso-like presence in American music culture.

When 30 Rock's Tracy Jordan worries about the supposed "Black Crusaders" out to get him for being a bad role model for young blacks, it's undoubtedly meant to be an alliance of Quincy, Cosby and Oprah he's running scared of.

Yet somehow, for all his magisterial demeanour and establishment power, Quincy has never lost the ear, or the respect, of even the more gangsta-fied hip-hop youth. In Britain, old rockers are routinely disdained by younger upstarts, but Quincy seems able to hang with the nice (John Legend) and the naughty (Snoop Dogg) alike - as per this compilation of refurbished, guest-laden blasts from his back-catalogue, a compendium of black-music styles ranging from Legend's retread of "Tomorrow", the Tevin Campbell optimism anthem, to Snoop's warm g-funk drawl through The Brothers Johnson's "Get The Funk Out Of My Face".

In the main, the best are those which draw on the broadest palette, such as the opening "Ironside", featuring Talib Kweli reminiscing on "the soundtrack to my life" over an Ironside theme adaptation incorporating jazz scatting, Freddie Hubbard's trumpet and Hubert Laws' flute; or the sophisticated, multi-layered productions of "Soul Bossa Nostra" itself, featuring a complex acappella arrangement by Naturally 7 topped with the familiar piccolo motif, over which Ludacris toasts an admiring tribute to Jones. Perhaps most impressive of all is Wyclef Jean's "Many Rains To Go (Oluwa)", an infectious and uplifting piece in which the former Fugee relates his own memories of watching the Roots TV series, over a new version of a Quincy Jones song from the series. "This is what I call global gumbo," sings Wyclef, approvingly. Elsewhere, further TV commissions provide the base grooves for a Three-6 Mafia rap about social inequity on "Hikky-Burr", built on Q's theme for the first Bill Cosby Show, and for TI and B.o.B's raps over the quacking bass-harmonica motif of "Sanford & Son".

It's not all up to that standard - there's routine balladry from Bebe Winans on "Everything Must Change", and autotune excesses from Akon, T-Pain and Robin Thicke on "Strawberry Letter 23" and "PYT", but such is the breadth of Jones' back-catalogue that one's never far from a pleasant surprise. Such as, for instance, Amy Winehouse slur-singing an update of "It's My Party" over a cute little shuffle-twitch R&B groove that manages to be both contemporary yet faithful to the 1963 original. But then, Amy knows how to treat her esteemed elders: when she was first introduced to Q, she apparently got down on her knees and kissed his hand - confirmation, if needed, that she was dealing with the capo di tutti capo of American music.

Download this: Many Rains To Go (Oluwa); Soul Bossa Nostra; Ironside; It's My Party

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