Quincy Jones - Q: Soul Bossa Nostra (2010)

Quincy Jones
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If a musicologist stated that Quincy Jones never produced a bad album, there probably wouldn't be too many dissenting voices. That's a remarkable statement considering Jones' six decades in the music business. Of course, legends like Frank Sinatra don't work with sloppy people, and those are the kind of A-list talents who called on Q over the course of the last six decades. Still, there was much trepidation when Jones announced that he planned to produce an album of remakes of some of his classic songs from the 1960s through the 1990s. People (including a few Soultrackers) saw the list of contemporary R&B and hip-hop artists that Jones recruited to this project and started to fret.

Jones has never had difficulty recruiting top-flight talent to work on the jazz and soul/funk/hip-hop projects that he has been crafting since the 1970s.

If a musicologist stated that Quincy Jones never produced a bad album, there probably wouldn't be too many dissenting voices. That's a remarkable statement considering Jones' six decades in the music business. Of course, legends like Frank Sinatra don't work with sloppy people, and those are the kind of A-list talents who called on Q over the course of the last six decades. Still, there was much trepidation when Jones announced that he planned to produce an album of remakes of some of his classic songs from the 1960s through the 1990s. People (including a few Soultrackers) saw the list of contemporary R&B and hip-hop artists that Jones recruited to this project and started to fret.

Jones has never had difficulty recruiting top-flight talent to work on the jazz and soul/funk/hip-hop projects that he has been crafting since the 1970s. Look at this roll call of hall of fame talent who have worked with Jones from the 1970s through the 2000s:  Leon Ware, Minnie Ripperton, Bernard Igher, Patty Austin, James Ingram, Barry White, El DeBarge, Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan and George Benson, to name a few. In terms of star power, the artists who flocked to be a part of Q: Soul Bossa Nostra definitely measures up: Jamie Foxx, Ludacris, Mary J. Blige, Amy Winehouse, Robin Thicke, L.L. Cool J, Snoop Dogg, Wyclef Jean, Jennifer Hudson. That list includes Grammy and Oscar Winners and platinum record sellers.

Truth is that the worst fears of many of the critics of Q: Soul Bossa Nostra were not realized. It is also true that Q: Soul Bossa Nostra is not 100 percent satisfying. You can count on one hand, the number of music people who possess Jones' understanding of how to merge jazz and the musical styles of the post-jazz era and ability to come up with work that receives near unanimous commercial and critical praise. And Jones also has an eye and ear for talent. If Jones wants to work with an artist, then it's fair to conclude that artist is talented.

So it's safe to conclude that any shortcomings found in Q: Soul Bossa Nostra aren't found in the artists. The problem is that Jones has to compete with himself. Q: Soul Bossa Nostra is ultimately a covers album. Jones made or produced these songs over the course of five decades. All remakes inevitably get compared to the originals, and it is in that comparison where Q: Soul Bossa Nostra turns out to be an uneven if ambitious work. Don't get it twisted, Jones and his collaborators definitely nail several of the tunes on this album. However, there are an equal number of misses. There's no rhyme or reason, no discernable patterns as to why some tunes work and others don't.

For example, the Ludacris, Naturally 7, Rudy Currence reimagining of "Soul Bossa Nostra," stands as one of the high points. The "Austin Powers" films made this tune famous as an instrumental. The remake combines Ludacris's clever raps with the daring harmonizing of Naturally 7 to create an entertaining mix. On the other hand, the dance version of "You Put A Move on My Heart," drains the passion from the song (despite Jennifer Hudson's lovely vocals). The same can be said for the forgettable remake of "Secret Garden." No, I can't say it's forgettable because I'll remember Usher, Robin Thicke, Tyrese, Tevin Campbell and L.L. Cool J singing or rapping the song to the beat of "Planet Rock," no matter how hard I try to forget. But just when you're ready to give up, BeBe Winans, Mary J. Blige, Amy Winehouse and John Legend give jaw dropping interpretations of "Everything Must Change," "Betcha Wouldn't Hurt Me," "It's My Party" and "Tomorrow."

In the end though, Q: Soul Bossa Nostra is a record that proves just how hard it is for even the legendary Quincy Jones to improve upon perfection. Moderately Recommended.

 

By Howard Dukes

 
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