When performing an improvised solo, it's desirable not to keep our minds busy with all the theoretical stuff we study. One of the ultimate goals is to make the hands go where they are supposed to go with least amount of effort. However, I believe there's one thing that must somehow be in our conscious mind all the time: the chords. Take for example the beginning of All the things you are. There are several ways one could memorize the sequence of chords.
- | Fm7 | B♭m7 | E♭7 | A♭7M | D♭7M | G7 | C7M
Here, the musician has the name of the chords in mind (he is not literally thinking: "I'm on Bbm7 and I'll soon be playing over Eb7", but there's a feeling of the chord name, maybe even the image of the symbol. The important thing is that each chord is a new entity, with a new name.) This is the first thing someone would try to do.
- | Fm7 | ii -> V -> I (A♭7M) | D♭7 | V -> I (C7M)
Another option is to add some harmonic analysis and treat some blocks of chords as one single entity. Here, the mind can be a little bit more free, because it focus mostly on target chords. After Fm7, the person would think "I'll go to the ii of the target chord A♭7M", then "I'll play over the V of A♭7M and then the target chord comes". It's different from disconnected names of chords, although disconnected names of chords are easier to see on the instrument.
- | i | iv | ♭VII | ♭III | ♭VI || V -> I
Another option would be to imagine not the names but the degrees of every chord. This is useful for transposition, but it imposes an extra step to the musician: the degree must become a chord. For example "iv" must become "B♭m7", either theoretically (the person knows the 4th of F) or with some kind of shapes (on the fretboard/keyboard).
- | i | ii -> V -> "I" (♭III) | ♭VI || V -> I
A mixture of the last two options. The musician has the relative degrees in mind and also blocks of patterns.
- The whole progression is made of descending 5ths.
Although this summarizes a lot of the information, the musician still must: transform the information into chords (shapes of descending fifths on the fretboard/keyboard); know the type of each chord; be aware of the ♭5.
- The ear can anticipate the sound of the next chord.
This is really hard, but certainly there are people with this skill.
The chord notes can be considered as one of the most importante building blocks of a solo. A nice musical use of arpeggios, scales, approach notes, motives, etc... depends on being able to effortlessly visualize chord notes on the instrument. The visualization of chord notes depends on the visualization of the chord progression. Thus, in this kind of mindset, the internalization of the progression would be one of the main tasks of the jazz musician. In this sense, I see similarites between piano and guitar (the chord notes can be visualized all at once and the scales can be seen as existing "on top" of them). My instrument is the guitar, but answers from pianists and other jazz musicians can also be valuable, of course.
Sorry for my digression, but it gives some context. My question deals mainly with the memorization process. How do you approach the problem of efficiently stick a sequence of chords of a jazz standard in the brain (so that it can be used in real time as a foundation for other structures)? Are there some tricks/methods?
[Ps: There are some related questions, but it seems they are usually concerned with the memorization of chords on the instrument and not the memorization of the abstract concept of chords which will be used for improvisation]