To become a better jazz musician, or really just a better musician, theory is important. But most important are the ears, the groove, and the knowledge of the music. here are some suggestions:
- Play along with the greats. A good place to start is miles davis in the 50s. He plays great stuff but it isn’t too hard to pick up on. start by learning his solos on so what, Freddie Freeloader and All Blues
- Memorize standard jazz songs – read this article and pick a few tunes from it to start – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_standard. This helps because when you play with others you can focus on the music.
- Learn solos note for note and play them with the original – here are some good transcriptions, you should try to do your own too – http://www.lucaspickford.com/ and http://www.jazztranscriptions.co.uk/ . I use Transcribe! Here’s a great transcription of Witch Hunt, a Wayne Shorter tune. It includes all three solos!http://www.music.sc.edu/ea/Jazz/Transcriptions/WitchHuntAllCONCERT.pdf
- Theory does help. The jazz handbook writes about how to learn jazz and has a lot of theory – We love you Jamey! http://www.jazzbooks.com/mm5/download/FQBK-handbook.pdf
- Check out these articles I wrote about chords, blues and soloing
All the best!