Quincy Jones 'blown away' by Montreal's Nikki Yanofsky

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AFP photo

Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:33 PM ET

Quincy Jones knows talent.

So when the 81-year-old producing-arranging-songwriting legend, whose collaborators over the past six decades have included Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson, decided to co-manage Nikki Yanofsky and executive produce her latest album, Little Secret, the 20-year-old Montreal pop-jazz singer could be forgiven for thinking she’d “officially” made it.

“Knowing that someone like Quincy believes in you, it makes you feel like you can do anything because if he put the faith in you, hopefully you won’t disappoint him,” said Yanofsky at Jones’ side during his visit to Canadian Music Week in Toronto recently.

“Just having him behind me, he is the King of Jazz and he’s the King of Pop, in terms of production, so to have him straddling both those worlds and have his insight for both of the genres (was ideal.)”

Turns out the two met when Yanofsky was only 14 and working with another producing legend, Phil Ramone.

“I went to Quincy’s house because he heard I was singing jazz,” said Yanofsky, whose only confirmed Canadian tour date is Metropolis in Montreal on June 27 during that city’s jazz festival before she plays European festivals both on her own and with Jones.

“I’m sure he gets so many requests every day from young singers but I think the reason he took the meeting was because I was singing his arrangements. It was just so awesome to be able to meet him. And he came into his living room in his Missoni bathrobe, he always has Missoni, and slippers and a blueberry smoothie. It looked so good. And he sat down and he said, ‘So, what are you going to sing for me?’ And I sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Lullaby.”

Added Jones: “I was blown away.”

“I met Stevie Wonder at 12,” he continued. “I met Aretha Franklin at 12. I met Michael at 12. I met a lot of people and they have it at that age you know, you know it’s there, they got IT,” said Jones.

“As soon as she opened her mouth, I heard it. Immediately. As we learned in the record business a long time ago if you can’t identify the singer at 20 seconds, it ain’t going to happen. The identity has to be there. Immediately, I was committed because I just loved what she was doing. That’s the main thing. And I’ve been an advocate for so long of young people taking music back up where it belongs.”

So, long story short, eventually the timing became right for Jones to actually executive produce Yanofsky and the results are a much more grown up and sophisticated sound on Little Secret.

“I just started working on the songs and I just showed them to Quincy, one of them was Something New with the (Jones classic instrumental) Soul Bossa Nova (in the song), my tribute for him, to say thank you to him and I guess he just said that he liked what I was doing and with the jazz and bridging it and making it new again."

Jones, whose current workload includes 10 movies, six albums and four Broadway shows, said he didn’t really want to change Yanofsky’s sound, rather just have an open and honest relationship with her.

“I wanted to see her be herself. That was important. She knows who she is. (And) be very real with each other. And that’s always been like that. There’s nothing she can’t say to me or vice-versa. Very important. It’s taken as a sign of love.”

Added Yanofsky: “I wanted to have original songs that bridged both my influences and contemporary music today and stuff I like listen to now, just sort of making something fresh and new. It’s definitely been amazing. Like he said, he just wanted to see me be real and be myself and that’s something that is is kind of rare.”

Twitter: @JaneCStevenson

jane.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

 


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