One of the best ways to improve as a musician is to play gigs. I have noticed that many students of jazz seem to do this only sparingly. When you are developing as an artist, you really need to seek out lots of opportunities to play! I can tell you that being on the bandstand often is one of the best ways to transform your playing.
You still have to practice in order to have something to play at your gigs! You still have to (get to!) listen to jazz. You can transcribe. You can practice with LJS Play Alongs to help you learn the tunes better, and listen to the recordings embedded on each standard. However, it all really comes together on the bandstand!
One of the best things I ever did for my playing was to get some weekly gigs. Every week I’d play for 2 or 3 hours at the same venue. This was so valuable! There were seasons of life where I played 3, 4, 5, even 6 nights a week at various gigs! Playing that many gigs helped me to really dial in the tunes I knew. There are some things you can’t really learn any other way other than playing lots of gigs. When I was coming up, I would often hire guys who had more experience than me because I knew that I could learn from them. Sometime later, those same guys started calling me to play on their gigs!
If you can’t find existing playing opportunities, then create your own! Play with people who have more experience whenever possible. Get creative! Sometimes the best gigs are the ones you drum up for yourself.