What are the best notes for improvising?

As a jazz educator, I am often, “How do you know what notes to play in an improvisation?”  Given the many possibilities, it’s tempting to over explain this with overly detailed concepts such as modes, jazz scales, blue notes, chord tones and the like.  However relevant these may be, too much information too early in the game tends to sap the confidence of inexperienced improvisers.  Fortunately, there’s a simpler, more practical answer:  The best notes for improvising on any given tune are the same notes that are in the melody.  All the improviser has to do is mix them up and it’s easier than you may think. 

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