When original Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman retired in 1993, he might have thrown sand at the steel wheels of the world’s biggest rock ‘n’ roll band. Instead, the group was somehow able to find a worthy replacement for Wyman in the nimble fingers and punching thumb of Darryl Jones.
The acclaimed musician, who became known playing with Miles Davis in his early teens, is the subject of the new documentary. Darryl Jones: In the blood. The Greenwich Entertainment film, directed by Eric Hamburg, is now showing in theaters in limited release and debuted Friday on VOD platforms including Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
“It’s not an easy thing to replace someone who is an integral founding member of a band like the Stones,” Hamburg said at a question-and-answer session about the film in Santa Monica on Thursday night. “And yet Darryl was able to do it. And I think he has brought a new element to the Stones that they needed. I don’t know if they could have carried on for the last 30 years if they hadn’t had Darryl Jones playing with them.”
In the question and answer session, Jones reflected on what he had to learn about the Stones and their music to earn a place in the band.
“One of the things I first understood about rock n’ roll is that there’s a certain amount of irreverence…there’s a level of chaos that you fight,” Jones said. “Once I understood that, and [drummer] Charlie Watts, the way he plays, really helped me understand that not all i’s have to have a dot, not all t’s have to be crossed. Sometimes those loose ends are the real wonder and they’re the things that make music human and special.”
The film explores the subtle role a bass player occupies in a unit like the Stones. The bass, like its namesake base, plays a fundamental role in music.
“Daryl has a lot of jobs. I mean, he has to join the drummer,” Hamburg noted. “He also has to be the third ‘weaver’, like Keith [Richards] put it on Keith was so incredibly effusive with Darryl.”
All current members of the Rolling Stones were interviewed for the film, including Richards, Mick Jagger, and guitarist Ronnie Wood. Watts, who died last year at the age of 80, spoke to the filmmakers before his passing. He praised Jones as a musician and as a good guy.
“In a band you have to get along with everyone, really,” Watts told Hamburg. “And Darryl is one of those people who is very easy to work with and very nice to be around.”
In some ways, as the film reveals, Jones was an unusual choice to succeed Wyman. Yes, he had played in Sting’s post-Police band, but he was more into jazz than rock. That, ironically, really appealed to Richards and Watts.
“Charlie is a jazz drummer in his heart and in his soul,” Richards observes in the film. “And Darryl, with his influence and his background in jazz, it was a natural fit for me.”
Jones grew up in Chicago in the 1960s, with a father who taught him drums and a mother who exposed him to a variety of music. He picked up the bass around the age of 10 and was tutored by a neighbor, Angus Thomas, a talented bass player who later played with Miles Davis. At the age of 21, Davis invited Jones to join his group, and he performed with the revered trumpeter for some five years in all, in between his time in Sting’s group. Jones said that part of what he appreciated most fully through Davis was the difference between collaborating with other musicians onstage and wanting to showcase his abilities as a solo artist.
Jones said he learned to “listen, in a way, and let the musicians around you inform what you play, not report it, ‘Oh, I’ve got this great lick that I’ve been working on,'” he said. “One of the things I tell students is, if you think about it, whether it’s music or a conversation with a person, listening is an act of love.”
Darryl Jones: In the blood contrasts with documentaries about doomed music artists, for example Asif Kapadia’s film Amy Winehouse; Janis: Blue Girl about Janis Joplin; i called him morganabout jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan, who was murdered by his concubine, and Bill Evans: Time Remembered about the late jazz pianist who battled drug addiction.
“This isn’t like you see in a lot of movies about ‘this guy was a great musician, but he tensed up and overdosed and died, or crashed in a plane’ or whatever,” Hamburg said. “This is a film about a very inspiring person. And so I wanted to keep the focus on that.”
Part of what is inspiring about Jones is that he still sees himself as a developing artist, exploring new horizons. The film shows him rehearsing and performing with a group he formed, The Darryl Jones Project.
“After years of supporting music’s greats, Darryl Jones brings his own soulful roots rock to the stage, showcasing original songs and deep covers,” says the musician’s website about his group. “His music tells stories of growing up on the South Side of Chicago and draws influences from James Brown to Curtis Mayfield to the Beatles, as well as the legendary musicians he has shared the stage with.”
Jones also launched a company that manufactures custom musical instruments, “custom-made in the USA using state-of-the-art methods and time-honored practices.”
“I had a wonderful experience of building an instrument for someone and giving it to them and seeing them fall in love with it,” he recalled in the Q&A session. “There are all these things that I want to do.”
It has new music coming out this month, including a song used at the end of Darryl Jones: In the blood. He says he’s “just going to keep releasing music. And part is about politics, part is about love. A lot of this is about family. ‘In the Blood’ is really a song written from the perspective of me and my brother. And what I’m talking about is how blessed I feel to have been born to the parents I was born to. And how all this that has happened, I think, is directly related to the way my parents taught me to move in the world.
And when the Rolling Stones call, he’ll be there, helping them get it going and keep it going.
Hamburg says a lot can be learned from Darryl Jones.
“Wait [the film] It will inspire young people to pick up an instrument and play and write music, write songs, express themselves,” said the director. “Darryl doesn’t fit the rock star cliches. He is not arrogant. He’s not on a big ego trip. He is very humble, down to earth, modest, in touch with his roots.”