With “I Dig Dancers”, Quincy Jones continued his gradual shift from a pure jazz artist to a pop artist with a jazzy slant, but with no real drop off in quality or creativity. As the title suggests, this album is geared toward dancing, but not of the rockin RnB variety, instead this is more of a throwback to jazz’s ballroom dancing days in the heyday of the swing band, but the music isn’t particularly retro, its Quincy’s fresh 60s sound all the way. The band assembled here was an all-star aggregation that was put together to support a European tour of “Free and Easy”. When that show ended, Jones took this great band, that featured Benny Bailey, Clark Terry, Phil Woods and others, on a tour of Europe and also made many of these recordings. After returning to the states, Jones made some more recordings, this time with Freddie Hubbard and Oliver Nelson on board.
Along with Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones was inventing the soundtrack for life in the 60s and the new middle-class suburban hip. This is the sound of double martinis, James Bond movies, Playboy magazine and car commercials featuring Sting Rays and Thunderbirds. Some of this music might be a bit cute for the serious jazz fan, but for those who enjoy 60s soundtracks, albums like this are the pinnacle of a distinct sound and nuance. Although much of this music leans pop, there is no lack of artistry; Melba Liston’s “Tone Poem” is interesting in its 3rd stream abstractions, “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set” is a beautiful ballad featuring one of the best Phil Woods solos you will ever hear and “G’wan Train” has some nice driving RnB horn riffs. Its also interesting to note that the version of "Midnight Sun" on here is far jazzier than the straighter version that will appear on "Birth of a Band Vol 2".
Although this music is not as pure jazz as Jones’ early albums, such as “How I Feel About Jazz”, its not near as cute and corny as the pop tunes that will surface on “Birth of a Band Part 2” or the bonus tracks on “The Complete Birth of a Band”. Instead, the music on “I Dig Dancers” walks a fine line between big band jazz and artsy pop music. I think most Quincy Jones fans will find a lot to like here, the orchestrations and recorded sound are excellent.