I have been mulling this topic over for quite a while and reading the topic about jazz books I thought it might be something worth discussing. I have talked to a lot of players who have legitimate problems with the Sher Real Books and the Ol' 5th edition. Most of them complain that many ii chords are added where they weren't necessarily originally intended and that a lot of the standard chord changes are actually Bill Evans' changes that he used. This has often made me wonder how guys like Peter Bernstein, Bill Charlap, really anyone who interprets a lot of Standards, unearth the core changes of these tunes. It seems really hard to get the essential changes when the Real Books are already slight re-interpretations. Further, it is hard to re-interpret someone else's interpretation.
I used to sit at the piano and play When You Wish Upon a Star, using one of those really old sheets from when the song was first released. I am not a very good pianist so I would play really basic triads under the melody. It seemed to really open a lot of doors for me, not only was I hearing the essence of the tune, but I could hear all the possiblilities of the tune itself. Anyone have an approach to finding that essence of a Standard? Or do you guys know of any books that really pare down tunes to their basic elements? I'd also love any ideas on how to interpret these charts that have all kinds of added chords.