Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P.: Michael Jackson

Michael Joseph Jackson
(born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, IN;
died on June 25, 2009 in Los Angeles, CA)

Michael Jackson passed away this afternoon, June 25, 2009, at 2:26 PM, in LA, at the UCLA (University of California - Los Angeles) Medical Center. "It is believed he suffered cardiac arrest in his home. However, the cause of his death is unknown until results of the autopsy are known," said Jermaine Jackson, one of his brothers.

Even though, obviously, his music wasn't jazz, it would never have been possible without jazz...

From jazz heroes Quincy Jones (who produced Jackson's best-selling albums ever), Johnny Mandel (who wrote the string arrangements for "Off The Wall") and Jimmy Smith (who played organ on the title track of "Bad") to Brazilian master percussionists Paulinho da Costa ("Off The Wall," "Thriller" and "Bad", also on The Jacksons' "Destiny", "Triumph" and "Victory", plus "The Wiz" soundtrack and the "We Are The World" benefit project) and Laudir de Oliveira ("Destiny") and Claudio Slon (also on "Destiny"), Michael was always surrounded by some of the best musicians from both the jazz/fusion and pop scenes - Eric Gale, Gary King, Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, George Duke, Larry Carlton, Phil Upchurch, Wah Wah Watson, Rick Marotta, Greg Phillinganes, Larry Williams, Jerry Hey, Kim Hutchcroft, David Paich, Michael Boddicker, Louis Johnson, David Foster, Rod Temperton, Paul Jackson, Jr., Jeremy Lubbock, Clare Fischer, Roland Bautista, Ricky Lawson... the list goes on and on.

Curiously, the two most successful jazz renditions of Michael Jackson's hits were done by trumpet players. Canadian master Maynard Ferguson recorded a massive version of "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" (from "Off The Wall") for his 1982 "Hollywood" album, produced by Stanley Clarke and featuring George Duke, Ndugu, Alex Acuña, David Sanborn, Lee Ritenour, Michael Sembello and others. On his turn, Miles Davis cut "Human Nature" (a song written by Steve Porcaro & John Bettis for "Thriller") in 1985 for the "You're Under Arrest" CD, co-produced & co-arranged by Miles & Robert Irving III, with John Scofield (guitar) and Steve Thornton (percussion). "Human Nature" became a permanent fixture of all Miles' concerts until his death, with several live versions appearing on other CDs and DVDs, usually featuring Kenny Garrett on alto sax solos.

However, the most important Michael Jackson musical associate, during his solo career, was the legendary Quincy Jones, who produced Michael's groundbreaking albums "Off The Wall" (1979), "Thriller" (1982, the best-selling album in the history of music) and "Bad" (1987), not to mention their collaboration on several other projects like "We Are The World," the best-selling pop single ever.

Quincy issued the following statement about the passing of the King of Pop:
"I am absolutely devastated at this tragic and unexpected news. For Michael to be taken away from us so suddenly at such a young age, I just don't have the words. Divinity brought our souls together on 'The Wiz' and allowed us to do what we were able to throughout the '80s. To this day, the music we created together on Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad is played in every corner of the world and the reason for that is because he had it all…talent, grace, professionalism and dedication. He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."
Herbie Hancock:
"This is an unbelievable tragedy, first of all for his family, for his devout fans, for the world of music and for the world of culture. Michael was one of the most diligent creators. His passion flowed through every pore of his being. His sense of invention was unparalleled. Who else could have thought of the moonwalk and who else could have created such a unique sense of movement in dance. His contribution to music and music videos; Off the Wall, Thriller, We are the World are expressions of his consummate talent. Above all his compassion for serving humanity and desire to uplift and encourage excellence are etched in his legacy.He changed the world."

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