Lincoln Alexander and Quincy Jones An Evening to Remember
Submitted by Michael E. Williams
Photo: Quincy Jones and Lincoln Alexander
I was standing outside the back stage of Roy Thomson Hall for the Oscar Peterson Public Memorial, chatting with Jack Layton and Olivia Chow, waiting for a friend.
My friend, a lifelong friend of Oscar’s and featured guest speaker of the night, was Quincy Jones.
As usual, Quincy was brilliant that night as he gave us wonderful memories of his private and public moments with Oscar. Two of Oscar’s favorite pianists performed - the great Oliver Jones from Montreal and former Studio One pianist, Monty Alexander. Nobody swings harder than Monty Alexander known for his West-Indian swing Flavor.
I sat backstage left next to the amazing Phil Nimmons. Soprano, Measha Brueggergosman, was sitting on my lap. Quincy said to me “beware of the singers they can break your heart”. She is an amazingly wonderful lady with a voice as big as her heart.
I was literally surrounded by musical royalty and history.
Towards the end of the evening I noticed Lincoln Alexander with Oscar’s family. Oscar and Lincoln go way back. When Lincoln Alexander won the election in Hamilton West in 1968 to become the first Black MP in Canada, Oscar Peterson played him into Parliament. It was the first time I had seen Lincoln Alexander that night. I went up to introduce myself but he beat me to it as he knew who I was. Having never met him, I was shocked. I had heard of him and admired him from a distance as I had Oscar Peterson. Lincoln pulled me down beside him and said “I know who you are”. He greeted me as if we were long lost friends. Of course, his warmth was legendary. I asked if he knew Quincy Jones and when he said no, I quickly introduced him to Quincy. I explained to Quincy who Lincoln was and they were like “Soul Brothers” - heart to heart from the start.
Here were two men, from different places, yet with similar black experiences, bonding in soul and spirit. They shared a private moment together. I was proud to introduce Quincy to a Canadian giant, both in heart and history, who changed the course of this nation. Linc, as his friends called him, had a Coat of Arms that read like his life: Confidence, Determination and Perseverance. In many ways he was our Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And his playlist included the music of Oscar Peterson and Quincy Jones!
It was meaningful, and timely, to facilitate that moment while celebrating the life of another great Canadian. Oscar Peterson was quite a gentle giant just like Lincoln Alexander. As the story goes, when Oscar Peterson was becoming legendary across the American Jazz community, Quincy said, ”Norman Grantz (Oscar’s manager) had a kid up in Montreal, Canada, that he was feeding buckshot because he just exploded all over the keyboard when he played!”.
Three legendary men whose lives intersected that evening. Each enormously successful in their respective careers. Each blessed with social grace, a kind heart, and humility. Each an inspiration to so many. Myself included.
Lincoln Alexander, whose unstoppable energy and fierce determination smashed racial barriers as Canada's first black MP has died on October 19 2012 at the age of 90.The formidable man known to all as "Linc" was a living legend in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario and a statesman whose life and career were a series of groundbreaking firsts.Alexander was a powerful symbol of Canadia equality as the first black Canadian elected to parliament and named to cabinet.