Glory and injustice

Is bass legend Chuck Rainey falling through the cracks?

"After that I was only offered a coupla little gigs for what y'all call 'Juneteenth Celebration.' I never hearda this shit till I came here. Juneteenth? Gimme a fuckin' break. That's the only time I would get action from three or four clubs. I been to one of these Juneteenth parades. Where I come from, when we have a parade, it ain't just a bunch of black people on horses."

When Rainey considers Quincy Jones--beloved to millions of consumers across the world--he again feels the glory and the injustice. "Quincy Jones is a great continuity director--that's it. He jobs out 90 percent of what he does musically. He knows how to get brilliant people. I have done six albums with Quincy. I've yet to see him write a note for me, or anybody in the rhythm section."

Behind the scenes, Quincy Jones farmed out a lot of his arrangements to the great arranger Billy Byers, his secret alter ego. Rainey imitates Q shuckin' and jivin' a rhythmic pattern while recording the score for the film Money. The Record Plant session included Lee Ritenour, Eric Gale, Harvey Mason, and Donny Hathaway.

"On everyone's music stand was a blank paper and pencil, which Quincy never touched. After five minutes, we all wrote down two pages of some kinda chord structure. But Donny didn't touch the piano. And Quincy stops the band for the fourth time, asking Donny what's the matter. And Donny says, 'Hey, Q, you don't have nothin' written here. The other guys can do this for you, but I am an arranger, producer, and writer. I'm not gonna do your job." So Donny sat out. He told me on the drive home, 'You guys are fools. He's making a whole living offa your creativity. When you work for me, I've got something for you to play.'

"I sit and listen to what me and Eric [Gale] did with Money. Stuff nobody could write or arrange, just two cats gettin' down. Then you hear these trombones and tubas, horns, the whole thing written off of this thing. He's very smart. Like Arif Mardin, he doesn't create. They hire the people who create the parts, orchestrate into what you created, put their names on it." To remedy such injustice, Rainey believes--in theory--that there should be a production company that pays out royalties.

"When I saw Miles Davis' last concert in France that Q did, Q almost had to force Miles to hug him onstage. Miles didn't respect him. Everybody's either had a lawsuit against Quincy, or cause for one. I've had a cause for a lawsuit against Quincy, from Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. Me and Paul Griffin were writing partners, and we started fooling around on a song we wrote during break. And Quincy comes in, says 'Wow, man, sounds great, let's put this in the film.' So we trust Quincy, it's cool. Film comes out. The longest piece of music in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is me and Paul's song. But when you look at the credits, everything belongs to Quincy Jones. And on the soundtrack, that song's not included. I had to go to that film three times to time this piece of music. We didn't chase the lawsuit. Quincy is sneaky, sly and fulla shit, but he's the kinda guy who's sneaky, sly, and fulla shit and you wanna be in his corner, cause he's successful.

"But one thing Q has done--every film that I did with him, my name is on the credits for playing bass. And I was always paid double-scale, always. Hit records are very important to your career, to people liking you. If I could push a button and change everything? I would take whatever animosity, bitterness, or negativity that was in me at any time in my career and get rid of it. When I go to Germany, France or Japan, whatever good happens on my bio, happens because of the Quincy Joneses, Jerry Wexlers, Arif Mardins.

"If I had been [session bassists] Jerry Jemmott or Gordon Edwards, they'd say, 'Y'all stuff it. You got the wrong motherfucker here.' Get his bass and go home. I never would do that, my mother would roll over in her grave. As a consequence, I've been on more records, had more success. You can go in the backyard and bitch about injustice. But you go in the front yard, people are sayin', 'Hey, this guy played with Quincy Jones,' pattin' you on the shoulder, and maybe one guy hires you for somethin' else."

Rainey no longer leads the charmed gypsy life of an elite New York-L.A. session player, cabbing from Joe Cocker to Perry Como to Van McCoy to Paul Simon to Lena Horne, studio to studio, coast to coast. His oldest son, by his first wife, is 20; he is now raising three young kids and a new puppy in a mainstream American household in the bland heartland of Bedford, Texas, far from the fast track. The great bassist becomes most animated discussing his son's 7th-grade football games; he'd like his children to become great athletes. They are several generations removed from the hit records their daddy has graced.

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