Quincy Jones is not going to help Michael Jackson make a new album.
The legendary producer of "Thriller" and "Bad," Jackson’s two most successful collections, tells me he’s concentrating on a big tribute collection set for next spring. About two dozen hip and R&B stars are recording Jones’ songs for the compilation.
"We’re trying to set up something for Mariah Carey now," said Q, who was one of the several prominent guests Tuesday night at an all-star fundraiser for Tony Bennett and wife Susan’s Exploring the Arts Foundation.
The evening was hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and featured performances by Jerry Seinfeld, singer-actor Terrence Howard, John Mayer and 82-year-old Bennett himself, who closed the four-hour evening at Cipriani downtown by crooning five classic songs ("For Once in My Life," "I Got Rhythm") with more panache than most rock stars a quarter of his age.
Also on the bill: casino mogul Steve Wynn, Viacom/Paramount owner Sumner Redstone and Netflix founder Reed Hastings, all of whom were honored for their contributions to the arts.
In the audience: Les Moonves and Julie Chen, Gayle King, George Hamilton, bestselling author Mitch Albom, Donna Karan, Caroline Hirsch and Katie Couric, who came in briefly to introduce and fawn over Redstone, praising her "boss" for donating $125 million to cancer research.
"I sound a little like Eddie Haskell," said Katie, catching herself for sounding like the famed "Leave it to Beaver" brown-noser.
Redstone, for his part, thanked Katie "for doing a great job for CBS."
After she exited, during a break in the proceedings, I asked Les Moonves, "Is Katie staying?"
Moonves responded: "No."
You mean she’s leaving CBS? Moonves, and Showtime president Matt Blank who was sitting next to him, exchanged a quick laugh. "No," Moonves said, "I meant she’s leaving right now to go home. She’s not leaving CBS. Imagine if I hadn’t explained that!"
Quincy, speaking from the stage, told the audience that he was going to "beg Obama" for a Secretary of the Arts if the Democratic nominee is elected. He also told me he’d given up on being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, possibly because Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner hadn’t liked it when Jones started Vibe magazine. This week, for the zillionth time, Jones was overlooked despite his enormous contribution to rock, R&B and jazz.
Jones also said that he’d told Jackson that they’d made their albums together and couldn’t go back. "'Thriller' took 12 weeks," Jones recalled. "'Bad' took three years."
Quincy, by the way, is a fan of John Mayer and has included him on that tribute album. "He’s doing something with Usher."
But Mayer’s performance Tuesday night, to this ear, was the same as usual: derivative to the point of rip-off. After announcing his influences were Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, he then played his own hit, largely borrowed (and not paid for) from Mayfield’s "People Get Ready."
Another song he sang, called "I’ve Got to Find You Another You," was very close in spirit and form to "Find Yourself Another Fool." His "Fathers and Daughters" song, sung like Michael Franks, recalled Paul Simon’s far superior "Fathers and Daughters."
Seinfeld, by the way, made the night with a short, brilliant set composed of some past bits. He also took a little swipe at the iPhone, perhaps now that he’s a Microsoft employee, maybe just because the idea of people liking a phone because the picture on its screen rotates in different directions seems absurd. If only Seinfeld’s Microsoft commercials had just been 30 seconds of riffing on Apple nonsense, like battery life and planned obsolescence…
As for Bennett and wife Susan, their Frank Sinatra School for the Arts is set to open soon in Queens, N.Y. Bennett named the school for his idol. Really, it should be named for Bennett. His son/manager, Danny, says that even the Sinatra kids have said Tony should have it renamed for himself. "They get it. They’re all for it. But he won’t do it," said Danny. "That’s just not him."
Sorry, kids, but I forgot some major names from Peggy Siegal’s list at the Met Opera opening. How could I have left out Helen Mirren, Deborah Norville, Blythe Danner and Frank Langella? It was the A-list event of the night, the week, and maybe the month. …
Wednesday night, Peggy has a pretty great group set for Lifetime’s "Living Proof" movie including Renee Zellweger, Harry Connick Jr. and Trudie Styler. The premiere will be preceded earlier today by lunch at Michael’s. …
Clear the decks for Thursday night. If you’re not at the premiere of "Equus" with "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe naked and horsing around, you might as well stay home and make lint balls from the dryer. …
Jive Records has postponed the release of Britney Spears’ "Womanizer" single. Why? It’s awful, that’s why. I’d ditch it and rethink this project. …
Janet Jackson has left Island/DefJam after one failed album. That makes three in a row: "Damita Jo," "20 YO" and this last one. The situation is strange, because Janet came to Island/DefJam with boyfriend Jermaine Dupri, who became head of urban music there. He produced Janet’s album.
So what gives and what’s next? It’s Janet’s money-making that helps keep the Jackson family running, since Michael is a)always broke and b)hates the family. That’s a lot of pressure for a girl who is to the Jacksons what Marilyn was to the Munsters. …