Paul Bley – Time Will Tell – “A scale is a very ugly thing”

“A scale is a very ugly thing and it’s a bad discipline to expose your ear to bad music in the name of technique.  If you decide what to play and what aesthetics to use in your choices then the “how” will follow. There is a basic advantage in not being able to play well, in that if your music is very simple then you are less likely to play bad notes. The more notes you play the more likely you are to play a lot of bad ones. By limiting your choices you improve the result of your music. I went through a period in my life when rather than trying to make my music sound better I started eliminating things that didn’t sound good and everyone said that I had made a great improvement, but what I had done was just housekeeping.”
Paul Bley – from Time Will Tell – Conversations with Paul Bley (2003) – Norman Meehan

Such an odd perspective, but it makes sense that Paul Bley would say that scales are “ugly.” I think what he is saying is that scales, when played like “scales,” are ugly. When played like music are just music. The notion that you get rid of bad notes in your playing by simply playing less notes is pretty funny!

if your music is very simple then you are less likely to play bad notes

This is perhaps the definition of a bluegrass solo, or what the cowboys call a “break.” Good jazz musicians never have a hard time with “wrong” notes as that is sometimes the fodder with which they create their motifs.

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