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I'm a 9th Grader in my High School Jazz Band. My teacher recently gave us our new song, "The Michael Brecker Waltz" and he gave me the Tenor Sax solo part. I don't have any trouble with the written parts, just the improvisation part. I have previous experience improvising with (especially blues scales) but very little with strict chord playing. I just have trouble finding the right notes and putting them good rhythm patterns. The chords in the song are Dma 9, G6(9), Cmi7, F9, Bb ma9, Eb ma9,Gmi9, Gmi7, Fma9, Bmin7, C9, Emi7, C13, G13. I don't know if my director thinks I know this stuff like the back of my hand, but I don't want to give up and disappoint him. I also wanted to know good practice techniques so I can get this all down. I know that this may seem very simplistic to many of you, but I'm still a beginner. Any help is greatly appreciated.
 

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Have you spoken to your teacher or director about it? That's what they are there for!

One of the tricky things about improvising over a chord progression like this is that there is no single scale that will work for the entire section.

As a starting point, do you know what notes make up each of those chords? It may help to write them out he following way -

E
C# A Bb
A E G
F# B Eb
D G C
Dma9 G6(9) Cmi7 etc...

Then, start looking for notes that are in common, and notes that you can use to make melodies. This is sometimes known as creating and/or using Guide Tone Lines. For example, you could start on the D (the root in the Dma9), then play the E (the 6 in the G6(9)), then the Eb (the 3rd in the Cmi7) and so on. From there, you and play around a little with tones immediately above and below the guide tones to add colour.

This is only one way to approach it, and there are a HUGE variety of other methods. I think your best bet is to speak with your teacher, as it is very easy to get lost in all of the information without some guidance.

Edit: The chords are supposed to be lined up in columns, but I can't get the formatting right. Also, I missed the C# in the Dma9 chord.
 

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For a quick fix, try using the D Minor pentatonic Scale or D Blues Scale over the entire progression. There are a few chords don't fit great with it( Bm7 and Em7) but, by and large, the effect of this melodic direction will work with these chords as a one scale fits all approach. Why it works with these chords is a deep subject, as is learning to play on those changes. But, if have to sound okay on it tomorrow, this will get you by. Give it a shot.
 

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OK – FWIW on my end –
You can find the tune on the internet if you have not already listened to it. I think it is from Dave Brubeck’s album, "Young Lions and Old Tiger". When you listen to it (IMHO) concentrate on the rhythm section; see if you can memorize (get a feel for) the ‘sound’ of the chord progression. You may have to listen to this over and over and over – try and stay away from listening to Brecker; he is not going to be playing this solo, YOU ARE. You may get with the piano player and record him playing the changes; you could also go slowly w/him/her on the changes in your solo section; BandInBox?
Hey GrantSM - it is a learning experience. Given time, you should have no problem playing on these changes.
Good luck and if you can, post your playing on this Brubeck tune.

DDR-> Your teacher= Old Tiger
You = Young Lion
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I agree that trying to play like Brecker won't help. He often played in a way that notes which could be considered wrong, can sound good.

The very first thing to do is to work out what the key centres are. Then you can work out a set of scales from which to choose the notes you play based on (ideally) knowing the chord tones.

It's method is easier and more creative than trying to find a scale for each chord.
 

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Try to incorporate characteristic parts of the melody into the impro (not like you're just restating it but try to weave bits and pieces into your improvisation, I feel this adds direction and the listener has something familiar to grab onto). Maybe make sequences out of them. Aaronrod makes a good point about common notes and guite tone lines too.

If you do want to play outside a bit, check out Levine's "Jazz Theory Book" which has a great chapter on it to get a feel for the basic concept.
 

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I'd say you have only one possibility - get Band in a Box, key in the changes, and live with it. Try to start hearing the changes, but that is a hell of a long list of chords. First figure out how long the phrases you want to play will be, 2 bar? 4 bar?, phrase by phrase, and work out phrases for each one. Go for a programmed (written) solo. You can loop the chords for each phrase in BinaB. Once you've got a series of phrases try playing them with the track and smooth out the rough edges.
 

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See, lots of different ways to approach it. :)

Another backing tracks option if you have a portable device (iPod/iPhone or tablet) is iRealB. It can provide backing tracks, you can input your own chords, and it is significantly cheaper than Band In A Box (it also has significantly less features - you get what you pay for). You can download the chord progression for most songs for free, or you can input your own.
 
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