A conversation with Darryl Jones
(and Markus Brandstetter)
Darryl Jones, bassist extraordinare – to many best known as The Rolling Stones‘ bassplayer since 1993 – is coming to Vienna with his amazing "Stone Raiders"-Trio. We had the great pleasure to talk to Darryl Jones about his trio and his amazing career. And yes, we also asked one or two questions about the Stones.
Darryl, thank you so much for doing this interview. Now that you’re coming to Vienna again: do you have any memories about this city? I know that your friend and former bass-teacher Angus Thomas moved to Vienna a couple of years ago, plus you have been here a bunch of time with The Rolling Stones.
Darryl Jones: I have a some great friends I met through Angus living in and around Vienna so I have many fond memories of spending time there and in Eisenstadt and Oslip. I’ve even been out in the woods with a friend who’s a hunter though I don’t hunt myself. I also know Vienna to be a pretty cool scene as far as international "jazz" is concerned. Whatever that word means.
You joined Miles Davis‘ Band in 1983, you were in your early twenties. What were the most important lessons you have learnt from Miles as a mentor, both for your further career as well as in regards of music in general?
Listening very carefully to the musicians around you is one of the most valuable things I learned playing with Miles. It seems like a given but it isn’t. It’s a very powerful thing when you can do it actively and allow that to direct your interaction with the music and musicians.
Your trio, Stone Raiders, consists of three very strong musical poles: Jean-Paul Bourelly on guitar and Will Calhoun. Jean-Paul and you for instance both worked with Miles Davis, Will also played with Ronnie Wood (plus, just like yourself, they have worked with an immense number of great artists of all genres). Tell us a bit about the dynamics of that trio, how the interaction works and working process is like.
Stone Raiders is an ever evolving group environment that focuses on developing and expanding the boundaries of the music and our current social and human understanding and hopefully that of our audiences.It is necessary(I think) for us, as artists, to comment on the world around us. The positive things as well as the negative. Without some sort of social commentary our intention to expand the music is just an exercise in aural gymnastics. We are attempting to channel(not copy) the musical idioms we are influenced by and remove the boundaries that presently separate those idioms. As we see it, this one of the ways to move the music forward and hopefully nudge society along with it.
You have been playing all different kinds of musical genres: Jazz, Rock’n’Roll, Pop. How much does the approach on the bass differ, for instance when playing a show with Peter Gabriel in contrast to playing with John Scofield?
The music is different so the approach must be. You don’t use a screwdriver to hammer a nail. That being said,I have a general philosophy to playing and that is,to serve the song,to serve the music.
You worked with various great guitar-players, Stern, Scofield, Clapton, Richards/Wood – but you have also been in the band of a man who’s quite a good bass-player himself, Sting. Is working with somebody who is a bass-player himself, different ?
No,not really. Sting gave me a lot of latitude about what to play. He suggested I change what I wanted to but he writes such strong bass lines that many times what he created didn’t need to be altered.
Obviously you have created a very tight rhythm section with the Stones – a fundament that allows Keith Richards to charmingly do his thing at times (you know, be a bit ahead or behind with his licks, his signature „laissez faire“-timing approach). Can you tell me about how rhythm section works in the Stones?
There’s all this talk now about behind the beat or ahead and I think we may be overanalyzing it. It’s hard enough to play music without thinking about all that. If those things are not naturally occurring, while you’re busy contemplating that, you could miss just living in the music and enjoying some great moments. I really enjoy playing with Charlie(Watts). As with musicians who play together over a period of time you begin to develop a language. I suppose I gave it a lot of thought in the beginning but now I think I just listen and let the music "play."
(c) markus manske
Thinking about all the various great line-ups you played it, are there some you still like to look back to? For instance the amazing „Bring on the Night“-Band with yourself, Branford Marsalis, Omar Hakim and Kenny Kirkland.
I think of that band sometime. Though when I do, I miss Kenny Kirkland. Actually,a song from the Stone Raiders "Truth To Power" record,the material we’re playing this tour is,in part,about him."The Radiance Of Pure Reality." Losing his singular musical and personal voice;imagining what wonder he would have wrought if he had lived. Yeah,I think of Kenny. He was such a charming person and it showed in his playing. Except charming is not quite the right word. Enchanting.Yes,that more closely describes him and his gift. Personally it was subtle. Musically,not so much. He could stun you. vThat band could go a lot of places musically and it was obvious from the moment we played together. Great memories.
Your musical CV sounds like every musician’s Utopia. Are there still any dream collaborations?
Stone Raiders is surely one of them. I think Jean Paul Bourelly is one of the most original musicians and conceptualists of my generation. Will Calhoun, growing up where and when he did(in the Bronx at the dawn of the creation of hip hop) and being influenced by such a wide array of genres gives him a very unique point of view as far as music and society is concerned. Other than this ensemble,there are too many dream collaborations to mention. I’m always hearing some musician I have or haven’t heard before and imagining who would be good to match with him. That was one of Miles‘ gifts. He knew how to put together great combinations. Just look at his bands. Music is infinite and I’m more and more excited about giving myself to it as time passes in all its differing combinations.
What are your musical plans for the next time? Besides your trio, do you still do sessions?
Ah,the session myth. I have done some sessions over the years but compared to the guys who really do that,the number I’ve done is a drop in the bucket. I enjoy it but you have to stay still a bit more than I have to do that kind of work. I’m working on a few things but I think I’ve talked about them too much. TIme to do. Stay tuned.
Where does your nickname „The Munch“ come from?
That is a very short story.
You have played in Brazil for an audience for 1,2 Millions of people. What was your most intense moment on stage, both with the Stones and in general?
That Brazil gig was a mindblowing event. I’ve playing in front of some pretty large crowds but as far as big gigs are concerned nothing compares to that one. You could feel the energy of the crowd. Physically. I’m not kidding. It was like being in the water and seeing a hugh wave coming except the music is your surfboard and you’re gonna to take a ride. Then you’re riding and it’s responding to you and you’re responding to it and you could get crushed but you make it back to the beach and afterward you’re like,"WHEW!" Exhilarating.
Allow me this last question: is playing with The Rolling Stones as much fun as it looks like?
Yes,it actually is.