"Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones" sounds like a hyperbolic title for a film biography, but after the swirl of sight, sound and celebrity that synopsizes into two hours of Quincy Delight Jones Jr.'s 50-year affair with music, it doesn't seem at all strange that there is no "The End" at the end.

Quincy Jones is an unfinished symphony.

Certainly his is a life you couldn't invent: Start at 13, when Jones plays in a band with 15-year-old Ray Charles, and fast-forward to the entertainment empire that's producing NBC's "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and turning old pal Jesse Jackson into a journalist, producing four movies and all the while continuing to pull hits off. "Back on the Block" is Jones's first album in 10 years. Then do a search for Count Basie, Dinah Washington, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Michael Jackson, "Roots," Sarah Vaughan, "We Are the World," Lesley Gore, "The Pawnbroker," and Quincy Jones is there, connected, beatific, a creative magnet seducing the best out of everyone.

Years ago, he laid claim to a large supply of hyphens, gradually inserting them so that now his job description reads something like this: musician-composer-arranger-producer- educator-executive in the record-television-film fields.

And that's just the short-form, professional re'sume'.

And yet ...

There have been three failed marriages, two aneurysms that nearly killed him, a nervous breakdown, troubled relations with his children.

Quincy Jones is a puzzle. "Listen Up" dumps out the pieces and tries to put them together.

"Because people have seen me on the scene for so long, they think I was born in Buckingham Palace or something," Jones said during a Washington visit where a benefit screening of "Listen Up" was a highlight of the Congressional Black Caucus week.

"It's been a long time, longer than most of them are old, so they don't put it all together."

Jones particularly remembers a Washington encounter four years ago, following a concert at the Kennedy Center celebrating the first Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. "It was one of the heaviest things that happened in my life," he says. After the show, "I was tired -- I think I was beginning my breakdown -- when three ladies came up and it was very obvious that one was a grandmother, one was a mother and one was a granddaughter. And the daughter had 'We Are the World,' the granddaughter had 'Thriller' and the grandmother had 'Sinatra/Basie.'

"It blew my mind."

So did "Listen Up," produced by longtime friend Courtney Sale Ross and directed by Ellen Weissbrod. This is no simple hagiography: Sure, there are plenty of encomiums, but Jones's life is offered up in the context of the past 50 years of African American history, politics and music.

"All of black music is sociology," Jones says. "It really is. Since back to spirituals, it's about sociology."

"Listen Up" is also about psychology, delving honestly into Jones's difficulties as a husband and parent. There is the joy of returning to his birthplace in Chicago for the first time in 50 years, and the gut-wrenching transformation as images of poverty, racism and mental illness -- his mother was in and out of institutions -- flood Jones's memory.

There is great joy and great pain, as if the public success and the private failures have ridden on parallel tracks, one pointed skyward, the other a roller coaster. The occasional despair of Jones's private life, hidden behind gold and platinum fantasies, is now an open book. The movie is more talk than action, but the talk is at times brutally revealing. It's like listening through a peephole.

"With all the pain involved going back to the old neighborhood and everything else, it ended up being very cathartic," Jones says now. "I started to understand the situation about my mother, because when you have nine years that are cloudy shadows and demons and everything else, you can't really put your finger on it. When you're 5 years old, everything looks real big, the size of emotions feels big, so you're in that kind of alpha state where everything is bigger than life, blown up.

"What was freaky about the house was that nothing has changed. I thought there'd be an apartment building there, or something, but it was exactly the same -- not a drop of paint changed, or the staircase where me and my brother sat and cried, everything. A lot of things came up that were blocked out and that's what scared me about doing it."

Listen to his oldest daughter, Jolie, talking in the film about Jones, the family man: "We just thought he had this genius in him and everything else was second, which wasn't right for us, but that's how it was."

"They did such a great job it makes me cry," Jones admits. "It still hurts me to watch.

"I was real reluctant to do it but I trusted Courtney," he adds. "She's been a friend for a long time and she's an artist."

Jones, who had no financial participation in "Listen Up," says his five children saw the finished film just a few days before the benefit and "I think they were shocked about a lot of stuff, things I've never talked to them about." They hadn't understood the poverty their father was born into, or the racism he endured. "I think it pulled us together."

Director Sidney Lumet, for whom Jones wrote a number of film scores, says Jones "understands everything immediately. He's completely curious." Adds Ross: "He's filled with enthusiasm, he loves life. And you can see from the film that he doesn't just stay in some trench. He gets in it, does it and gets into another."

Even as a child, Jones embraced the masters of jazz, watching, learning, absorbing their knowledge and experience, developing into a promising trumpeter and establishing himself as a fine arranger while still in his teens. Eventually he would arrange for, play in and even lead big bands; had that era not come to a close in the late '50s, Jones might well have followed in the footsteps of his heroes, Basie and Ellington.

Instead, he became the first black vice president at a white-owned record company (Mercury, where he turned Lesley Gore into a star) and, soon after, moved to Hollywood and became the first black composer accepted by the musical establishment, infusing both film scores and television themes with jazz and soul elements they'd been lacking.

"I fought my way out of all that stuff," he says of a career that has paid no attention to an artist's race, age or gender. "I hate categories. That's somebody telling you that you can't do anything else. Well, you fight your way out of that."

In the last decade, Jones's toughest battles have often been with success. For instance, in 1980 he released "The Dude." Like most of Jones's album projects, it featured a host of talent performing with Jones in the director's chair; it earned 12 Grammy nominations and won five awards. It took Jones almost a decade to make his next album, the aptly titled "Back on the Block."

Not that he wasn't busy: There were hit albums for Donna Summer, Frank Sinatra, James Ingram and a fellow named Michael Jackson, one of which became the best-selling album of all time (40 million and still thrillin'). He also put together the biggest-selling single of all time -- the all-star choir on "We Are the World" -- and produced the film version of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple," with pal Steven Spielberg directing.

Just as "The Dude" came out, Jones signed a deal with Warner Bros. Records establishing his own label, Qwest. No one, least of all Warner Bros., could have known it would take so long to get a Quincy Jones record out of Quincy Jones.

Fortuitously, "Listen Up" started shooting about the same time Jones went back into the studio for "Back on the Block." In fact, he had just one song in hand, "The Places You Find Love." As it turned out, the film helped shape the album, as the album would help shape the film, by forcing him to look back even as he was thinking (as usual) forward. In the end, the album became a celebration of African American culture, embracing African roots and Brazilian extensions, connecting jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Clark Terry and Billy Eckstine with R&B singers like Al B. Sure and James Ingram, gospel singers Take 6 and rappers Ice-T, Big Daddy Kane and Kool Moe Dee. Sometimes seemingly diverse artists ended up on the same song.

"I just went with the impulse," Jones explains. "The picture was pushing me backwards, going chronologically from 1933 up until today, which I always hated to do and was afraid to do. And these things just started to happen. The one thing you don't do with a Ouija board is try to push it back into some slot because you thought it should be there. You let what happens happen and go with it, and support, and that's really how I like to work. All my life I'd wanted to hear Miles {Davis} and Dizzy together -- they're my biggest influences -- and so I just did it."

Jones also connected those bebop veterans with rappers Kool Moe Dee and Big Daddy Kane, and at one point, even ventured a little rap of his own ("It's ragged. I'll get it," he says in the film). Jones had been turned on to rap five years ago by his son Quincy Jones III (now producer of Young M.C. and others) and sees close bonds between rap and bebop, the former doing for words what bebop did with notes in the '40s.

Jones's new album includes Vaughan's last recording and 12-year-old Tevin Campbell's first -- the past and the future locked together. "Listen Up" is as much homage to Jones's teachers as it is testimony to his role as a mentor to the likes of Campbell and Siedah Garrett.

"I want them to stand on my shoulders, as a human being too," he says passionately, "because Basie and Eckstine and Clark Terry and Bobby Tucker, it wasn't only about music that they were teaching me. They were teaching me how to be a human being too."

Jones won't venture as to how long fans (not to mention Warner Bros.) will have to wait for another trip around the block, but the mothballs remain on "The Evolution of Black Music," a project for which he's been gathering materials for decades. He says he will not be working with Michael Jackson ("I don't have time"), then adds a moment later that "I've neglected my own record company a lot and I'm going to do something about that. It needs some love and attention and I can't let someone like Tevin or Siedah down."

"But there's so much going on, man," he adds. There's "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," which Jones says will be showing more bite in its upcoming episodes. "And we've got great expectations from Jesse's show, but it's brand-new ground and it's hard work, man."

"I have a lot to learn, it's deep water -- you can make some big mistakes and it does present a bigger challenge," Jones admits. "I've been in the studio a long time, and I don't ever want it to become something I take for granted. I'm not going to stop making music but I would rather do it now in conjunction with a big, hot drama with a lot of music in it that means something to me."

There's a bio-film about the black Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, a co-production with Soviet filmmakers. The screenplay is in its third draft, Jones reports, "and I'm searching for the right lead actor, who has to be a very special 5-foot-4 mulatto actor who looks like Prince. It's a special project that I want to be real close to, it's too personal. This man is up there with Goethe and Dante and Shakespeare. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen, so I'm not going to make a picture the Russian public would be ashamed of."

There are four other films on the drawing board, including one about the kind of bus tours Jones and other jazz musicians made in the South in the '40s and '50s, when racism was blatant and where "the band bus was the center of everything -- the fights, the loves, the music. That's where they lived, you know."

There's another mini-series (no details) and eventually Jones will settle down to write his autobiography with Amiri Baraka (perhaps with space in the back for yearly updates?). There is already a book version of "Listen Up," a sort-of syllabus that includes additional commentary by Jones and a wealth of historical pictures.

What this doesn't suggest is that Quincy Jones is slipping into the past tense. "If there's anything you learn from the film," says Ross, "it's that he's not going to slow down." After all, the line between ambition and achievement traced in "Listen Up" is not cluttered with rest stops.

What Jones suggests, however, is that he's learning how to find other people to share the weight and the responsibility -- "I'm finally learning how to do that" -- and that he is seeking some sort of balance between work and family.

"That's the part that gets tricky," he says. "You try and build a situation in your mind where you can really accommodate both things. I'm learning a lot about letting go now. You really have to pick the right people and let them go do their thing, communicate what you want to do, connect with it -- but you have to let go and trust. I think I've been asking that from people for years."

That, he adds, "is one of the reasons that all my life I wanted to have this multimedia company, because I think all my kids are talented."

His company, Jones says, offers a way to pull his children further into his life "because it's got the capacity to encompass anything they may want to do, to learn, to grow. And we're finally going to have a chance to be with each other a lot, because the ultimate goal is not just to love each other and be around each other, but to create together."

Quincy Jones says his life, and his relationship with his family, "hasn't been close to being perfect.

"Probably the thing that makes me cry the most {about 'Listen Up'} is that they've had to face such a high cost for me having a career that I love so much. That's the part that hurts me, a lot, but I'm going to try to do something about that. But I can't do anything about what I've done already."