We know Quincy Jones as a music pioneer. He is a record producer, songwriter and multi Grammy Award-winning musician who has been in the music business for over 70 years.
He has worked with Celine Dion and Aretha Franklin, had a Netflix documentary about him released in 2018, which was directed by his daughter Rashida Jones, and has written countless songs for Michael Jackson, Lesley Gore and Donna Summer).
Jones, who recently turned 88, is still busy. Now, he is focusing his efforts on Qwest TV, his streaming service which focuses on educating and entertaining all generations on international music history and culture. Learn about Indian raga in one film, or in another, watch a live set by Ziv Ravitz. Their music documentary section includes films about Al Green, Sun Ra and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among many others.
In a time when pre-internet music history is too easily overlooked (and sometimes forgotten) this niche streaming service is necessary to trace the roots of modern music. Jones talks about his background in jazz, the legacy of music history and what Qwest TV will change.
Why does the world need to tune into Qwest TV?
Quincy Jones: When I was a young trumpet player with Lionel Hampton in the 1950s, I was on my first trip to Europe. The great saxophonist Ben Webster told me: “If you really want to learn about the countries you are going to be going to, eat the food that the people eat, listen to the music that the people listen to, and learn 10 or 12 words in the language that the people speak.” And that’s exactly what I did. And why to this day, I feel at home in every country on the planet. I know from firsthand experience that there is nothing more powerful than music to break down barriers between people and bring them together. It’s that shared cultural exchange that is what got me so excited about the idea of Qwest TV. Our catalog of incredible archive footage, concerts and documentaries from artists all over the world, and every genre of music from pop to classical to jazz to blues, funk and soul, offers something that the world needs: a place where true cultural discovery is possible, no matter where you are from.
Why are we at a danger of seeing music history being erased or unacknowledged?
Music can never be erased. The last two things that will be on this planet will be music and water. Just think about it—close your eyes and imagine going an entire day without hearing any music. It’s impossible to do. At its inception, the blues and jazz was viewed as unworthy of serious artistic consideration by America’s musical establishment of the time because it was born from the emotional and psychological pain of slavery and its vestiges. But it was the honesty, spirit and freedom of our music, its essence, that caused it to be adopted by the world as its Esperanto. And why it is at the foundation of every genre that evolved from it from bebop and doo-wop, R&B and pop, to rock-n-roll and hip-hop. That is the beauty of Qwest TV. Ours is a catalogue where you can view a worldwide spectrum of amazing musicians and explore who and what influenced them, and see how we are all linked together.
At the time that it was conceived, America had a less than embracing view of jazz. But music, and jazz in particular, is the purest of art forms. You can’t see it, touch it or smell it, but it has the power to penetrate deep into your soul like nothing else. That is why every major societal and cultural shift in this country was foretold by a revolutionary shift in the music. Bebop preceded the civil rights movement, rock-n-roll the 1960s, R&B and disco the 1970s, pop the 1980s and hip-hop the 1990s. Like the griots of Africa, our music chronicles our story and what is really going on emotionally, spiritually. It is our pulse, if you’re paying attention and take the time to hear it.
Is music history being overlooked?
I’ve always said you have to know where you come from to know where you are going. That is why I’ve always been such an advocate for America to have a Minister of Culture. To ensure that our cultural legacy is preserved and promoted. One of the things that I am proudest about with Qwest TV is our Qwest TV Edu scheme, where we offer students free access to our entire catalog. We’ve already had over 1,000 educational institutions sign up for it.
What is your favorite music documentary and why?
One of my favorite documentaries right now is a new one on the platform: Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes. It is an amazing film that uncovers forgotten recordings from reggae’s golden age. Part oral history, part sound system party, it's documentaries like this that bring us closer to the music, revealing the stories and characters that made it happen. But we’ve got a whole lot more on Qwest TV, especially when it comes to exploring African artists, like the Malian blues master Ali Farka Touré, Indian music through a journey into Raga, or Brazilian icons like Gilberto Gil. All kinds of music, as well as unique early archive footage of jazz icons like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, can be found on our platform.
How did Chick Corea change your life and inspire you?
We came up together as young beboppers and our journeys paralleled and at times intersected each other’s, and I’m very thankful for that. He was a beautiful human being and one of the greatest jazz pianists and musicians to ever walk the planet. I’m going to miss his presence on this planet, but he left us with an amazing musical legacy.