Q: You produced three of Michael Jackson's biggest albums: Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad. Where were you on June 25, 2009, when you got the news that he had died?
A: I was coming back from a film festival in Shanghai and we stopped in Luxembourg, where Grand Duke Henri had a band greet us at the airport. On the way into town they said, "By the way, Quincy, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and Michael Jackson just died today," and it was like a shotgun went off in my head. They were all friends of mine.
Q: Did you know Michael was addicted to prescription pills?
Q: What did you love about Michael?
A: I loved his essence, his perception, his drive. He had a lot of stuff. Michael was smart, too. He'd study all the giants of the past, from Fred Astaire to Gene Kelly to Bojangles to Sammy Davis.
Q: I read that one of the highlights of your career is working on the 1966 live album, Sinatra at the Sands.
A: That's as good as it gets. You know Sinatra also had the best songs ever written. He had the best arrangements that ever worked and the best bands. He had the best voice. He had the drama. He had the acting chops [to play] the drama in his songs. He had everything.
And Frank singlehandedly changed racism in Vegas. It was so racist back then Nat Cole and Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne too, had to eat in the kitchen, and stay across town. They couldn't go in the casino. This is in '64! And when Frank invited us [Basie and his orchestra, conducted by Jones] to Vegas, he put "guys" with each member of the band and said, "If anybody looks at them funny, break both their legs."
Q: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
A: Not many. I've got some projects I want to do. I'd like to write more songs. I did a lot of orchestration but I didn't write as many songs as I would've wanted to write. But I'll get to it.