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Quincy Jones tells Sinatra stories in Shanghai

Min Lee

SHANGHAI — American music legend Quincy Jones delighted an audience of university students in Shanghai last Friday with stories about working with Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson — and a sprinkling of Chinese phrases he had picked up.

About 200 students welcomed the 76-year-old composer before his lecture as part of the 12th Shanghai International Film Festival. He greeted the students at Fudan University’s Shanghai Institute of Visual Art with the Mandarin phrase for thank you — “xie xie ni” — and praised their “piao liang,” or beautiful, campus.

Jones, whose career spans jazz, film scores and pop music, discussed a wide range of topics, including the technical difficulties of writing movie scores, Internet music sharing and the evolution of African American music.

The multiple Grammy Award-winner advised students to follow their interests and “never chase money,” but also to work hard and prepare well for any career.

“When Frank Sinatra called me, I was ready … You better be ready when you work for Frank Sinatra, because he knows no breaks,” Jones said, referring to the late American singer’s reputation as a perfectionist. “He either loves you and respects you, or he’ll roll over you with a Mack truck in reverse.”

Students also wondered what it was like to work with Jackson on his best-selling album “Thriller.” Jones, who produced the album, said Jackson was a “very, very focused” worker with a strong memory.

Asked about illegal music downloads in a country where piracy is rampant, Jones said it was crippling the record industry, but added that he believed China’s music industry could become the world’s biggest.

He also impressed students with his knowledge of traditional Chinese string instruments — he did not know their names but easily identified them by gesturing the way they are played — and said he would like to work with Chinese musicians.

Jones said he had visited many music conservatories in China and was impressed by the passion of its youngsters, saying that they “really have a thirst for knowledge.”

The students bid farewell to Jones by singing his hit song “We Are the World,” to which he responded in Chinese, “Thank you, my beautiful children.”

He said his current projects include a film about the Brazilian carnival, a Broadway show about the history of jazz and blues, and an animated film for children about a range of music genres.

(Associated Press)