I've been studying the Bob Reynolds approach to jazz for about two months now. All I can say is, where was this 10 years ago? I have made so much progress in the last two months, that I'm sometimes in disbelief at some of the things I end up playing.
He has a visualization process that he outlines to help learn, memorize, and play over tunes. I have now learned, and can play All The Things you Are, Have You Met Miss Jones, and Giant Steps totally from memory, and with a high level of comfort. Using his mental approach, I have begun to develop the ability to see changes coming, and truly improvise the changes. It's a great feeling, and although it wasn't immediate, I'm already starting to find myself getting out of the rut I always used to find myself in, where I would end up gravitating back to the same old licks.
And there is one big thing there - Giant Steps. This tune is viewed different ways by different jazz players. I love it, despite the fact that it can sound mechanical at times, and is often only a way for one to show off. For me, it's long been vexing. I just never could wrap my head around getting the changes fast enough. Now, after working the tune through this process for only a week, I can simply play the tune. It's not perfect, but I can play it somewhat convincingly. Just last night, I played through the changes of it for a good three minutes, and did pretty well. I was kind of in shock.
My other big project is altissimo. This is the upper range of the saxophone, achieved through the use of overtones and false fingerings on the horn. Many a sax player knows the struggle with this range. I used to be fairly good at getting there on Alto, but Tenor is like learning it all over again. So, I have my copy of Rascher's Top Tones, and I'm slowly churning away at it. I can hit overtones through two octaves so far, and that's not bad.
Looking forward, as a way to further enhance my studies, I think I'm going to begin recording practice time. Video or Audio, maybe audio for me, and the occasional video to post here. I think that could help me evaluate myself from "outside" and allow me to spot things to work on I might not normally notice.
I am going to begin picking a few tunes a month to get into my head. I always go back through the ones I've already memorized as a way to keep them upstairs and then I use that momentum to sort through the next new one. RIght now it's Afternoon In Paris, and Autumn in New York.
Not sure what tunes will follow, but I'm leaning on listening to sort of learn whatever is catching my ear at any given time. Fun Stuff. Someday soon, I might even start trying to book some gigs.