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I'm currently working my way through Aebersolds II-V-I book and things are progressing reasonably well. I'm getting to grip with the progresson key centres and it's also improving my ability to play through all keys.

I've now got to the exercises in the book that don't sound like simple exercises and patterns and although I'm not having much problem playing in all the different keys I'm wondering how I should be thinking whilst playing them. Should I be chanting the chord changes in my head or should I just be thinking in terms of key centre? What would be the best method in the long term?
 

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You already know it's a II-V-I, what the chords are and what key it's in so there is no real benefit in focusing on it too much.

I think it would be more helpful if you analysed each pattern to identify any existing substitutions, surrounding techniques, melodic motives, chromaticisms, harmonic motion etc. Reconcile these with both the actual chords and the tonal centre. See what's happening.

I also think you would benefit greatly from making your own patterns or transcribing ones you like hearing. Learn the stuff you want to play. Try changing them. Play the bVI-bII and then resolve to the I, try superimposing a III-VI-II-V or III-bIII-II-bII over the II-V or even a leading dominant on the I to resolve to the next II. Mix it up a bit.
 

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Think of it in as many levels as possible. I think during the course of an improvisation, players switch effortlessly to thinking about the progression, hearing what they want to play, and relying upon muscle memory. Work out some ii-V-Is on the piano. Sing the ii-Vs you learn to play; create new ones by singing and translate them to the horn. Power through with technique exercises. Tinker with simple ii-Vs just to see how one chord tone leads to the next (7 leads to 3 is the most basic of these). Create logic games with a metronome to speed up your mental processing (say: Dm-G7-CM to a metronome beat...and go around the cycle with this exercise, or down whole steps. When this is too easy think of voice leading progressions within it, saying F-G-E for a ii-V-I in C). It should be possible to practice even when you're away from the horn. Transcribe (duh). Analyze other player's ii-Vs and figure out the important notes, noticing where they place them in the beat: down beats imply stress to the listener's ear...good players put good notes on the down beats. I'm rambling now, but basically, there are many many ways. The key is "cross training." Practice them in as many ways possible.
 

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I think one of the most important things is learning how each note fits over the chord you playing on. The more you do it the more you'll learn how each of the 12 notes fits over a chord, how you can use them and how they can resolve. Also, you learn how they sound and it helps you ear to hear the sound you want before you play.
 
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