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When I was younger I payed a LOT of notes. I had a pretty significant mastery of the saxophone keyboard and could rip arpeggios over the whole horn like nobody's business.

Now as I'm older (50) and really working on jazz technique I have almost completely stopped playing anything faster than eighth notes. When I turn up the speed I immediately feel how sloppy it is and how my fingers are more or less doing the thinking. I never really felt this before.

Honestly, I've really struggled with pedantic jazz bullies and saw avant garde as a way to give jazz the finger. But now that I'm working on refinement it's really changed the way I think and play.

I'm wondering if others have reached this same point.

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I don't totally understand what you are saying and asking. Perhaps there are two elements to it:

A. In general, as I age, I increasing appreciate those who play with intention. I enjoy a solo that makes good musical sense more than one that fills up the time and space with as many notes as possible. It's not impossible to have both, for example Bird, Trane and Brecker often played very clean lines at amazingly rapid tempos, which can be damn hard for us mere mortals. Changing the way you play could be a good thing. On Johnny Griffin's late recording "The Cat," his playing is considerably less busy than many of his earlier recordings.

B. You mention it getting "sloppy" when you turn up the speed. Do you mean your time is uneven, or that the solo is not very coherent? I think some loss of technical facility as one ages is unfortunately a common occurrence, and not a good or helpful thing. If there is problem with maintaining even time, one may just need to add some dedicated technical practice time, and prioritize evenness to raw speed to avoid reinforcing bad habits. There may be a delicate balancing act in that too much technical practice can cause RSI and aggravate the situation rather than improve it. One needs to figure out one's best practice regime.

To get back to your question... I have been practicing both fragments of harmonic motions (for example ii-V-I patterns) and followed soloing over entire song in such a way to put the harmony on autopilot and getting to a point where I can "sing" a solo on my horn. I try to plan or construct a solo without consciously thinking about it in words. It's a difficult mental state to describe. And the results are much better than when I randomly flailed to make the changes.
 
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