What do the BBC Proms and Quincy Jones Have in Common?

12/08/2016 11:42 | Updated 12 August 2016

The BBC Proms are the annual summer long series of orchestral concerts centred at The Royal Albert Hall. If you are a fan of orchestral music, of classical music, the Proms represent what fans of these type of musics wait all year for - BUT it's not just aimed at fans of orchestral and classical music by any means!

Quincy Jones, also known as Q, is a composer, arranger, conductor, producer, mentor, champion, innovator, record-breaker and legend. He is a true pioneer and a towering musical icon amongst his peers. One of the musical greats. Very few could actually stand shoulder to shoulder, if at all, with Q in terms of impact and influence on jazz, hip hop, dance and popular music in the last 70 years.

What the Proms and Q have in common, is a peerless global reputation. Both Quincy and the Proms have both pushed forward and introduced the world to new artists and constantly innovated with new works.

Where they will intersect for the first time is on Monday 22nd August, when myself and the Metropole Orkest return to the Proms to celebrate the career of this all-round musical titan, with special guests Jacob Collier, Alfredo Rodriguez, Richard Bona, Laura Mvula, Cory Henry and of course the great man himself.

Over the past few years I have presented several experimental concerts with the Proms, and for me it's always been about challenging the audience, innovating and most of all bringing in young music fans that don't necessarily connect with orchestral music. Of course I'm ambitious about it. Last year's 1Xtra Prom and Ibiza Prom with Pete Tong were huge milestones for the Proms, and for myself. That's what it's about for me, resonating with the public and creating new musical benchmarks.

My background is mixing genres, I connect with the different worlds of the orchestra and the artist. When I co-founded the Heritage Orchestra in 2004, I wanted to create a renegade ensemble, we wanted to smash the stupid formalities of the classical concert hall. We wanted to take beats and basslines by a non-classical orchestra into the club. That ethos is still there in everything I do.

It's hugely important for The Proms to be relevant to young people, and people who don't 'get' standard classical and orchestral music. Nobody can underestimate the power of listening to a Mozart symphony, everyone should be privileged or lucky enough to hear it.

Today, everyone's attention is 15 seconds long, and lots of listeners are skipping through tracks on Spotify. Classical music sticks two fingers up at that, and challenges the listener to mentally engage, and the reward is so much more than a 3 and a half minute track.

People have always associated classical music as elitist, it's not but it's advertised in a way that it could be - the dress code, the formality, all this can make it feel incredibly stiff and boring. The price to get into a classical concert is a fifth of the price to get into a pop gig, we are talking the difference between £5 and £100, what's elitist about that?

Quincy has a similar outlook on music, but on a bigger scale. It's his pioneering spirit that has made him such a huge contribution to music. It's no accident that he has a staggering 25 Grammy awards to his name. Q told me recently that he's always wanted to do a concert of his music at the Royal Albert Hall and it never happened, so when I came along and started talking to Q in February this year, the timing was right.

Over the past few weeks, I have been sent some of Q's original handwritten scores, to help with the preparation of myself and a great team of arrangers I've been lucky enough to have on board. For example, when he was on tour in Japan in the early 80s, I got a score of a live concert he played. They didn't have computers for annotating music, they did it all by hand, if you lost the music, you lost the music, you couldn't go to your hard drive. The work that went into it was phenomenal, they were working themselves 24/7.

In putting Q's Proms together I listened to pretty much his entire, monumental catalogue. It's rare to be as prolific, varied and honest in the way in which Q made records, he wasn't worried whether it was this style or that style, he was just doing his thing.

I broke down Q's work into the various categories : Big Band compositions and arrangements, Film scores as composer and conductor, Commercial Pop Albums as Principal Artist, Commercial Pop Albums as Producer (and often arranger), Arch collaborator extraordinaire to superstars such as Michael Jackson and Mentor to so many now legendary artists.

It was so difficult trying to decide how to do it, but for Q's Proms programme, I have put together the Quincy Jones mixtape, something that will take the audience on a non-linear, non-chronological musical journey. Expect some classics, unknowns gems, re-imaginings of some well-known pop-hits, all rolled into one.

Prom 49 - The Quincy Jones Prom will be held on Monday 22nd August at the Royal Albert Hall. The Metropole Orkest celebrates the music of Quincy Jones in this Monday night Prom, conducted by Jules Buckley. It will be broadcast live on Radio 3, and on BBC Four on Thursday 26th Aug.