Jones got his start playing along with the slightly older Ray Charles in the jazz clubs of what is now known as the Pioneer Square district of Seattle, Washington. He got his first break as a trumpeter for the Lionel Hampton Orchestra in 1951. Throughout the 1950s, he became a skilled arranger and led many small bands.
In 1957, he began a career as a record producer at Barclay Records in Paris, France where he also performed at the famous Paris Olympia.
In 1960, he was hired by Mercury Records as the first black vice president of a major record label. When jazz became less popular, he was asked to produce some pop singles; his first was the hit It's My Party by Leslie Gore.
In 1962 he wrote Soul Bossa Nova, a tune which became famous decades later as the "Austin Powers Theme".
He moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s where he began writing film scores. Jones scored many films, including In Cold Blood, "The Pawnbroker", "In the Eyes of Love", and "Mirage".
He has also composed several television theme songs, for shows such as Ironside (which featured the early use of a synthesizer), and Sanford and Son.
In 1969, he recorded Walking In Space, an early Jazz fusion record.
During the 1970s Quincy began producing more pop and less jazz. This drew criticism that he was selling out.
In 1971, he composed the theme to the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie.
In 1977, Sidney Lumet asked Jones to score The Wiz, an updated Wizard of Oz. It was there that he met Michael Jackson and they soon agreed that Jones would produce Jackson's solo albums.