Intermediate players: Okay, so you are comfortable playing some jazz standards and II V I Blues, and playing with other players. What now ? Area's that are essential:
Solo Development: Your solos should be telling a story. They start immediately by grabbing your interest, they build in intensity and expression [and meaning, hopefully ], upon reaching a climax they come to a natural end, like the final chapter of a good book. So how to do this ? In the lessons we apply the fundemental principle of music : tension and release. This is applied by rhythm choice, chord choice, scale choice, timbre choice, melodic choice, 'space' choice, juxtaposition of these events. It is used on the micro level from the 16th note of one bar, to the macro level of , say a 7 chorus solo. In a playing application of lessons we work on your ability to "tell your musical story", so that the "listener" ( you being the first listener ) follows every note of your solo with satisfaction and anticipation as to what will happen next.
Jazz Vocabualry : whole tone scale, bebop scale, diminished scale, altered chord tones, pentatonic scales, hypo dorian, nice sounds - but now it is time to apply them to various chord progressions to make them not sound like "scales" running up and down your instrument but like a *melody* that expresses how you feel. In my last few sentences I didn't suddenly think
" oh shoot... I haven't used an adverb for 10 minutes, I better get one in quick (ly) ! " If I needed an adverb to express what I feel, I use it as part of my natural language. At an intermediate level we work on how to use the various jazz 'scales' as part of our natural jazz language. So when you may play a 4 bar phrase: it is clear how moving and expressive it is, a n d after the fact we can observe how you "drew from the b13th, moving through an altered dominat mixolydian, then resolving through the openness of a pentatonic" but these were just 'colours' that expressed what you wanted to say.
Rhythm: the heart of all music. Your riffs are hip and even sound lyrical. Were you swinging ahead of the beat or behind ? Did you stay within the "feel/groove" of 195 bpm? Were you phrases all over the map ? (193, 4 bars later 196 ) At this level we work on a strong rhythmic feel that tells the listener / other players which beat you are on. Anything less and your riffs lack meaning, plus it is very hard for other players to really groove with you as the "ground beat" you play is fuzzy as to it's location in space and time. There are lots of ways to improve this with rhythm studies and song abstractions that will keep you "in the pocket" for longer and longer periods of time.
Harmonic Language: When the fake book chart says " F#7b13#9", can you play it in various voicings in a nano second? Would a hip alternative chord come to your fingers equally fast? In this area we look at all the applications of altered harmony, chord substitution, reharmonization, "modalizing" a standard progression. From an asthetic level, chord choice profoundly affects the improvised meoldy and opens vast levels of emotional expression by harmonic colouration.