When Gil wrote the arrangement of "I Loves You, Porgy," he only wrote a scale for me to play. No chords. And that ... gives you a lot more freedom and space to hear things.
When you go this way, you can go on forever. You don't have to worry about changes and you can do more with the [melody] line. It becomes a challenge to see how melodically inventive you can be. When you're based on chords, you know at the end of 32 bars that the chords have run out and there's nothing to do but repeat what you've just done—with variations.
I think a movement in jazz is beginning away from the conventional string of chords.... there will be fewer chords but infinite possibilites as to what to do with them. Classical composers—some of them—have been writing this way for years, but jazz musicians seldom have.
When I want J.J. Johnson to hear something ... we just play the music over the phone. I did that the other day with some of Khachaturian's Armenian scales; they're different from the usual Western scales. Then we got to talking about letting the melodies and scales carry the tune. J.J. told me, "I'm not going to write any more chords." And look at George Russell. His writing is mostly scales. After all, you can feel the changes.
I'd be willing to wager the album would have been quite similar if Russell had never written a line.
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