Yes. Anyway, this new band [Mark Turner, tenor saxophone; Avishai Cohen, trumpet; Joe Martin, bass; Marcus Gilmore, drums], The Lathe of Heaven: The writing is different. The whole band sound is different. It sounds more purposeful.

Yeah, it is. I don’t know how. Probably a lot of it was intuitive. But I spent a lot of time thinking about it.

It’s kind of like all the things I’ve wanted to hear from a record: the lengths of the tunes, the types of tunes, their tempos, the types of harmony on each tune, which sections will be—you know, like, a fair amount of tunes, some where you just play them straight through, kind of like flowing playing; some tunes with sections fast and slow within them; so on and so forth. I just wanted all these layers to be taken care of, you know? Again, in a way that’s not worn on the sleeve.

One way to do that, of course, is, like I said before, by not having chords. But not having a chordal instrument does more than just give you freedom. It actually scales everything back, so that you have to listen a little bit more. And it makes things less obvious. So, for example, if these things were played with chords, I would have changed the harmony. This allowed me to write harmony that I wouldn’t have with chords. Sometimes I made the harmony a little more forthright so it would stand out with just three voices. And in the sections where I wanted the harmony to be a bit more complex, you know, it’s tricky with three voices to make it heard.

I forgot to mention, also: part of the reason we’re doing it is that I was trying to get myself to be able to write stronger melodies and stronger form, in order to make it heard without chords. When you have chords, you can kind of do anything you want. Not really, but you can get away with a lot of things you shouldn’t do, myself included. Like, form mishaps, harmony mishaps, melody mishaps. You know, if somebody plays the chord you can write any melody, it could be terrible. “Terrible” meaning that the voice-leading isn’t correct, you should have played this before you went to that. So, without chords, you can’t really make those mistakes. It’s much more fine-tuned. When it does happen it can be very clear.


To read the entire interview, purchase your copy of Music & Literature no. 8.