There’s a saying amongst diehard Rolling Stones fans; “No Jones, No Stones!” It's said in reference to the group’s founding member, Brian Jones, but there’s another Jones you could easily apply the saying to: bassist Darryl Jones. Could there be a Rolling Stones without the contributions of Darryl Jones? Perhaps, but given his 27-year tenure in the band, it is indeed hard to picture the band without him. If there is any member of the band you could consider “The Fifth Stone,” it would have to be Darryl. If you were to strip out the keyboards, horns and backing vocals from the band, Darryl would still be there, holding down the sound as he has for generations of fans. Hell, even Mick Jagger exclaims at every live show (remember those?) that he “wants to play the bass like Darryl Jones” right after another stunning bass solo during "Miss You." Why wouldn’t he? Darryl Jones is arguably one of the best bass players around. Before you start to make comparisons with anyone, living or not, be warned that Jones’ first gig was with Miles Davis, and that was before he was 20 years old.
You probably aren’t going to find him on many “top 10” lists of bass players, and frankly it’s a testament to his ability to ride a fine line between staying true to the songs and making them his own. He does it with fluidity, finesse and funk. Next time you’re at a Rolling Stones live show, listen to the bass and you’ll see what I mean. You don’t get (and keep) a gig holding down the bottom end with “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” for that long without being at the top of their list.
Darryl Jones’ list of 10 albums that changed his life could easily have been stretched out to 25 or more, and such is usually the case with musicians of his depth. The original interview to obtain this information has morphed into a multi-year, ongoing discussion of these influences, because its hard to limit all of his influences to just 10. — Ivor Levene
Stevie Wonder - Songs In the Key of Life
Stevie really threw down the gauntlet with this one. It had "Village Ghetto Land," "Love's in Need of Love Today" and "Have a Talk With God." "Contusion" was like a fusion chain in the middle of the album. The record was filled with pop songs, too. You had "I Wish," which is definitely like a little bit of a bass anthem, definitely a bass-happy tune. And then, of course "Sir Duke," again, was another tune that kind of crossed the line in terms of pop. That's kind of a musician's kind of tune. It had that line that was difficult to learn. That definitely had a big influence on me. I would say that this record would have been one of the absolute jewels of my life. Looking at how he put together a master workflow of creativity. And that does nothing to take away from Inner Visions or Talking Book — those are also very influential records — but I've got to pick Songs because it's full of anthems and it's so long. It's an amazing work of art. I remember buying that record and sitting down to listen to that double album work of art; it was a huge influence.
Jaco Pastorious - Jaco Pastorious
The first Jaco Pastorius record would have been very influential to me for a number of reasons. First of all, the way he played. I had been a huge Stanley Clarke fan up until that point, and I still am. Jaco was an incredible bassist and a writer as well — as his documentary showed. He's shown up with a lot of the movie scores he did, and a lot of the recordings that he played on. I remember traveling across the United States with my family and reading in Musician Magazine that The Weather Report had a new bass player that was going to take over for Alphonso Johnson. So we drove from Chicago to San Francisco. And I went into a Tower Records and bought that record there, but I didn't get to play it until we got to my cousin's house in Los Angeles after we'd left San Francisco.
I do remember putting the needle down and hearing the song "Donna Lee" for the first time; it changed everything. It was like I had never heard anybody play something like that on the bass, other than maybe Ray Brown, or somebody playing melodic stuff like that on acoustic bass. I don't think I heard anybody play Be Bop on electric bass in the way that Jaco did on that tune. And then he followed that with "Come On, Come Over," which is a great soul tune for someone like me who grew up in the '60s. Soul was what I was listening to before I started playing bass, and I was very much influenced by it. Again, before I started playing bass I really do think that soul music and Motown were very formative for me.
After "Come On, Come Over," there was "Kuru/Speak Like a Child," where he plays a killer solo and takes on a real lyrical sense. And I think that was the thing that I hadn't heard up until that point, even though Alphonso Johnson is also very lyrical player. Jaco kind of put the cherry on the top of the sundae with the lyrical sense. And what also occurred to me, immediately listening to all of those songs on that record, was that Jaco was not really a bass player who had produced this amazing work. It seemed to me from listening to the songs, and listening to the way he played or arranged all of the musical work, that he was a fully-realized musician — an all-around musician who happened to play bass. So I would say that that record in that respect really did, again, throw down the gauntlet. This is a guy who doesn't just hear bass, he hears voices, he hears strings, he hears forms, and you can hear that in him.
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
That would have made a big impact on me, because again it was pointing out a lot of the things that I was learning about, like civil rights. What's Going On really seemed to speak to that, and to speak from that. That was something that in my household, growing up in Chicago, I was very much familiar with. My mom had all these coloring books called Color Me Brown, and they were full of people like Benjamin Banneker, Harriet Tubman, all of these different activists, abolitionists. Phillis Wheatley, Nikki Giovanni ... not just people from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, but Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. What's Going On seemed to be speaking from what I may have heard from that. I was influenced by that in the same way as some of the James Brown stuff, like "I'm Black and I'm Proud" or "I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing."
Billie Holiday - Lady in Satin
That would be a record that I listened to a lot. I really think that I learned about the greatness of Billie Holiday from that particular record, Lady In Satin. Although it might not be considered some of her most powerful work in terms of vocal power. It has something that's very haunting and beautiful, and there's a lot of sadness there. I remember asking Branford (Marsalis) when we were in Europe, what Billie Holiday record I should buy. We were at a record store in Europe somewhere in France and I said, "Yo, man, which Billie Holiday should I get?" He looked at four or five different records and finally said, "To be honest, there's a lot of great stuff here, but I have to say Lady. If you're going to get one Billie Holiday record, get that."
Alphonso Johnson - Moon Shadows/Yesterday's Dreams
Both of these albums, from 1976, were also very influential. I don't know if he kind of put those out there as "bass records," but those two records by Alphonso Johnson ... again, because there was all this virtuoso bass playing, but there was also him singing and writing, and all these other people playing on the record. You know tunes that were much more part of radio, so I'd have to say that those records were pretty instrumental as well.
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
I didn't realize just how connected I was to that record until I was playing with Sting. We were at a sound check, and Branford Marsalis steps up to the microphone with his saxophone and starts playing "My One And Only Love," like the beginning of that song, where Coltrane enters. Man, I lost it. I literally started crying. He was quoting from that record and it hit me that my dad and his best friend played that record over my head the whole time I was a kid. I was two years old when I was hearing that, and I didn't realize I was so connected to it until 1985 when Branford quoted it and I was literally crying. It was such a feeling of "Oh, man." It reminded me of being a kid in my father's basement, and in my father's friend's basement, listening to that record.
Stanley Clarke - Stanley Clarke
This is probably the album that was the most influential on me, because those guys would use orchestras on their records. It probably led me to be a little bit more curious about classical music; that and the fact that I graduated from grammar school in 1975 and went on to join a high school orchestra. So all of that — the music that I was listening to, as well as what I was playing on — I was learning about it. You know classical acoustic bass definitely had an influence on what I was listening to, and it was broadening my mind. My dad was a big Count Basie fan, so all of those tunes, like "Shiny Stockings" and "One O'Clock Jump," would have influenced me in that direction before I became a musician. This is the second of Clarke’s many outstanding records, but it still stands as some of his most exciting and enduring work. The compositions are funky, beautiful and diverse, and his playing on acoustic and electric bass is just blistering. Probably more than any other record, I learned parts of this record verbatim. Well, I tried. I learned to play what my ability at that time allowed. This album propelled my development as an instrumentalist significantly.
Bootsy Collins - Ahh...The Name Is Bootsy, Baby!
During the mid-'70s, he was doing a version of what Jimi Hendrix had done in the mid- '60s. He was taking up that mantle in a way. There's a track, "Munchies For Your Love," in which he's singing all of this weird, crazy stuff; talking about this woman and that he's got the munchies for her love. But there's also this really killer bass stuff that he's doing, using either a digital delay, or actually at that time it would have been a phase delay. He put in all this space stuff: fuzz bass, distortion, and all of that. So again, from the perspective of a bass player, that was very influential. There's a track on that record, "The Pinocchio Theory," it was one of the funkiest feeling songs in the world. To me, "The Pinocchio Theory," the way that he played, is just about one of the funkiest things I've heard. When I was at a party back in college and that song run got played, the dance floor would get completely filled. It really moved people.
Weather Report - Mysterious Traveler
I first heard it when a family friend came to live with us and she had this record in her collection. I can just about remember hearing “Nubian Sundance” for the first time. It was so thick with rhythm and texture, color and drive. I had never heard anything like it and, to be honest, in all these years since then I still haven’t heard anything like it. Of course, as a bassist, "Cucumber Slumber” is impressive for it’s groove, it’s improvisational breadth and the killer bass lines Alphonso Johnson plays in both of the two main sections. This bass sound is one of my favorites of any record. That sound is the blueprint on which I’ve based one of the instruments I’m manufacturing with my fledgling bass and guitar company, Jones Musical Instruments. Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul’s performance on “Blackthorn Rose” is a stellar duo. The way they play together and play off of each other's musical choices is just about clairvoyant. "American Tango" is brilliant in form, and Zawinul’s use of synthesizer sounds that are natural but also edgy, reveal a complete understand of electronic music sonics. This from a consummate acoustic pianist. It’s rare to find those two qualities in one person. Again, Alphonso’s simultaneous solid and melodic approach is groundbreaking at a time prior to Jaco Pastorius’ seismic and trendsetting entrance on to the scene. This entire album was, and continues to be, a masterclass in composition, improvisation, conceptualizing and performance by a music ensemble. Although recorded 45 years ago, it is still at the vanguard of creative, (mostly) instrumental music.
Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue
This record is the epitome of cool from Miles, while Coltrane brings quite a lot of heat. It is for me, as it is for many others, a constant soundtrack of my life. Seeing the footage of this quintet playing these songs further cements it’s unmistakeable cool by a factor of about 50. How else can Miles groove so hard while standing still?
James Brown, multiple singles
My mother was a huge James Brown fan, and when my brother and I were young she would take us to see him perform live anywhere you could take a child. This was also during the '60s and '70s when he had many hits including "Out of Sight,” “I Got the Feeling,” “In a Cold Sweat,” “Mother Popcorn,” ”Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” ”Lickin' Stick,” ”There Was a Time,” ”Give It Up Turn It A Loose,” ” I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing," "Open Up the Door," "I’ll Get It Myself” and “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.” I could go on. I danced to this music long before I became a musician, but I’m sure it had a profound effect on my understanding of groove and pocket. I have my mother to thank for that.