When I started playing, I used only one scale and stayed there, and never did anything other than patterns and stuff. Now, after almost a year of playing jazz, that changed a lot. Nowadays I'm way more concious of chords, how I can briefly change the scale I'm playing on a couple of chords.
Also, at first I didn't use any chords other than normal minor/major chords. That, too, changed a lot since I started playing jazz. The most difficult jazz songs I've learnt are Straight no Chaser (walking bass
) and Lullaby of Birdland. Very educational, I guess, and enjoyable too.
I like using complex theory stuff, but if I haven't excessively studied the rhythm, it's not of much use. Can't do advanced stuff, most of the times connected to weird chords, without knowing the chords. Yet I still hear it when a harmonic minor, for example, is in place. Also if it's the next chord I can use it on. It's strange, but logic at the same time. 'Cause the only reason we have music theory is because our aural brain thing likes to hear that stuff. Of course a lot of it comes naturally, theory is just a way of understanding why it sounds good, or if not good, why it has that charakter, and a way of repeating it.