I am finding that one of the best ways to practice improvisation in any tune is to practice switching between playing the melody and your favourite chord pattern in four bar, two bar, and one bar phrases. Ideally, you are referencing the melody and the chord structure in your melodic improvisations so force yourself to move between them in your practice sessions. You will find that you come up with some very interesting phrases. You will also find that you are playing some pretty lame phrases, but that is a small price to pay for the benefits of this exercise. Making your brain switch back and forth between focusing on the melody and the chord structure really challenges you and creates some interesting lines. Sure, it is best to play along with the masters and learn the vocabulary and style that way, but if you are looking for a different way to free your improvisation lines, this might be for you.
Dr. Michael Kearns
Musician, educator, husband, father, web designer ... my life is like a mosaic with each piece vying for my attention.