So, real musical rhythm comes when you listen to the note that’s been played before you, and you know when and where to place your note—and you listen to the note that comes after! This is how ensembles swing […] It’s really all about listening and having a strong enough understanding of where the beat is. You can intentionally pull on the fabric of time, pushing at the edge of the tempo. This could be achieved even harmonically: Ron Carter was a very good example, the way he played with Miles; that’s what he would do: push the pitch of a note, and depending on where he placed it—and the way Tony Williams responded—this all contributes to creating a lot of surface tension. And it is tension that requires resolution of some sort: tension – release – tension – release… Almost like a heartbeat! This is why poetic music is ultimately more satisfying than marching bands or disco, because in most of that music there’s no syncopation, it’s just (beating on the table: beat – beat – beat – beat). There’s not a whole lot there beside the pounding pulse. Music requires a steady beat, but it also needs flexibility. Time awareness is not about trying to play like a metronome.
I like [playing musics] that have a lot more mystery, and are not so—what’s the word?—so obvious or arranged. I like what we don’t say, that’s more interesting to me. So it’s almost anti-drumming in that context. Which again takes us back to the whole time-awareness thing. It’s what you don’t play that makes everything else work. If you play everything, supply every bit of information, there’s nothing left for the imagination of the audience! You’re playing a musical form of pornography at that point, right?