Singing

A Singer With a Nice Q-Factor

Pop Beat: Jolie Jones, Quincy’s daughter, is launching a singing career but doing it her own way.

By DON HECKMAN SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Jolie Jones at the CinegrillJolie Jones comes onstage at the Cinegrill in Hollywood with the graceful ease and fluid movements of the top model she once was. Slender, with good cheekbones and a fountain of curly hair, her cool self-confidence belies the fluttery inner stresses of opening-night jitters.

“One or my biggest hurdles,” Jones said before the show, “has been figuring out how to feel comfortable performing in front of my father, because I wanted him to like me so much. I mean, who would want to go out there and embarrass Quincy Jones?”

Interesting question, given Quincy Jones’ status as one of the most influential forces in the entertainment business. But Jolie Jones, the eldest of his seven children, is nonetheless taking the risk of embarking on a career as a jazz-styled singer after some 20 years devoted to raising two sons now 17 and 21 years old-or her own. “I’m not the only woman who chose to raise a family as opposed to having a career.’’ Jones, 40, said. “But I’m happy that I did it the way I did.”

Jones is adamant about the fact that her pursuit of a career will take place in her own time, in her own way. As a result, she does not have a recording contract yet, despite her connection to a figure with enormous influence in the music world.

“I’ve never gone to my father and said, “I want you to do this for me,” Jones said. “He gives me his input, but basically I’m doing my own thing, and I’ve always done my own thing, even if it was in his world.”

“And I think it’s going to be OK,” she continued, “but it hasn’t been easy. I had to put all these little affirmation notes around my house . . . because if I thought about it, I’d be paralyzed with fear. The one that I had in three different rooms was ‘Leap, and the net will appear.’ So, we’ll see about that.”

In her debut performance last Monday night, she was obliged to leap across her “biggest hurdle.” in an appearance before an audience that included not only her father, but a room liberally sprinkled with entertainment professionals.

As curtain time approached, the room was only about haIf full, with most of the tightly scheduled entertainment types arriving at the last minute. But the energy cranked up several notches when Quincy Jones arrived. Heads turned, the whisper level increased and several broadly smiling people began to move in his direction.

Dispensing an occasional benediction here and there, shaking a hand, accepting a hug or a kiss on the cheek, the multi-hyphenate mogul finally reached his table, managing to offer up a bright smile and a few words to all the well-wishers who approached.

There was a momentary glitch as guitarist Tim May had a problem with his amplifier. The other musicians-an all-star assemblage or pianist-musical conductor Patrice Rushen, bassist Ken Wild, drummer Ndugu Chancier and percussionist Munyungo Jackson-bided their time, and Jones waited nervously offstage until the right combination was found and the music began.

The crowd, many of them friends of Jones, a few also there to bathe in the ineffable power glow of her father, were for the most part among the already converted. Expecting to like Jones’ work, they were not surprised when her first few numbers were delivered with smooth professionalism.

But about halfway into the show a subtle transformation began to take place. Growing more sure or herself, Jones moved beyond performing the songs into the more rarefied experience of telling the songs’ stories in music. There was an almost palpable sense or her reaching inside her own emotional history to bring the material to life.

Numbers such as Dave Grusin’s “I’ll Be There” and Johnny Mandel’s “Where Do You Start?” (both writien with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman) were greeted with a hushed, suspended silence, followed by enthusiastic applause.

And Jones hit her full, jazz-driven stride when she kicked off a set of Brazilian numbers (Ivan Lins’ superb “Love Dance” and “The Island,” and Joao Bosco’s delightful “Nacao”) that fully displayed her gift for singing with smooth, floating rhythms and an arching, lyrical sense of melody. In her best moments, her interpretations recall the articulate expressiveness of Nancy Wilson blended into the warm candor or Ella Fitzgerald.

Despite the high quality of her performance, Jones, after the show, refused to be self-congratulatory, even when her father rushed up to embrace her in a paternal bearhug and assure her that she was wonderful.

“There are still rough edges,” she said. Then, with a shrug and a slight smile, continued, “This is only the third time I’ve actually done this.

“But, you know,” she added, hesitating slightly at the thought of her own temerity, “this is something I can do.”

Jones’ performance does indeed have its uncertain passages. She needs to sequence her numbers better. modify some or her between-songs patter, be careful about her not-yet-dependable high notes and, above all, learn how to relax.

But these are largely technical problems that can, and undoubtedly will, be dealt with. Because Jones, who returns to the Cinegrill on Mondays through the end of the month, is absolutely on target when she says that singing is something she “can do.” Blessed with a warm sound, a solid feel for investing rhythms with swing and momentum, and an intelligent understanding of phrasing, she has all the natural skills required to become a significant musical artist.

“I’ve decided,” she said, “that the gods wouldn’t have put me in this position if they wanted to work me over. It’s happening, things are falling in my path, I’m going with it and trying to get as much enjoyment out of it as I can. So, whatever’s coming. I’m here.”

 

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