Here's a letter I got from a reader who I am assuming is a beginner. Hopefully I answered his question.
I liked your post about Aebersold learning material a little while ago. I'm a jazz enthusiast who'd like to learn how to play(alto sax) to enjoy the playing itself but also to understand better what's really going on in some of the music I listen to. Now for Aebersold- seems there are a plethora of books what will you recommend for the first book,...and may be the next let's say five books that will allow me to learn and progress the most efficiently?
Maybe you should start with any of the beginning method books for Alto Sax. I think Rubank is the one everyone does. Also, start with major and minor scales( you could get those off of the internet), and then move on to reading simple notation. Maybe you are already doing this? And then you need to progress to the jazz modes like Dorian, Mixolydian, Lydian, and locrian. Then move on to diminished scale, lydian dominant, and diminished whole tone scale. In every key! Yes, it's tedious, but you'll thank me later.
I would get the First 3 legal Real Books from Carl Fischer Publishing, plus Patterns for Jazz by Jerry Coker. Also, the accompanying books with the Aebersold Cds have great information in terms of how to apply scales and patterns over chord changes. For me, it's cool to get melodic and harmonic info from books. But rhythm and phrasing have to come from listening.
Also, for an altoist especially, I would highly recommend the Charlie Parker Omnibook. One thing that is cool to do with the Omnibook, besides playing the solo along with the recordings, is to analyze every note of the solo according to scale degree relating to the chord. For example, if the notes are Bb, C, D, F, and the chord is Bbmaj7, then you would write 1, 2, 3, 5. The more you start to think in scale degrees relating to chords, the more sense it will make.
Don't forget about listening. I would try your hand at transcription. Maybe do a few bars at first. Try to just learn the notes on the alto, then write out the passage. Do a little at a time. Don't let it overwhelm you. Then,when you have the notes, do the same kind of analysis you did with the Omnibook, and then try to incorporate those ideas into your improvisations.
Let me know how it works out. Good Luck!