A professional jazz musician probably practices in solitude anywhere between one and three hours a day--college students probably a little more. And of course this is going to vary depending on how much he or she performs. Now let’s compare this to the amount of actual playing time during a gig: An average performance in a jazz club lasts anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour per set, and it’s usually two sets per nightly performance. During a one hour performance by a jazz quartet, the average group might play anywhere between five to seven tunes--sometimes fewer, for those particularly inspired moments. During those five to seven tunes, a horn player--including playing the melody, taking an improvised solo, trading fours with the drummer, and playing the melody out—probably plays a total of five minutes per tune. Which averages out to 30 minutes of playing time per set, and 60 minutes for a two-set gig.
Now my point is not to inundate you with averages and percentages, but to demonstrate that when you look at the amount of time that a horn player spends playing alone, compared to playing with others, on average he or she spends twice as much time playing solo or in solitude. Leaving me to conclude that playing solo is a state in which we are equally as comfortable, if not more. Yet, it’s a musical setting few of us get a chance to perform in.
But who knows, maybe one day this will all change. Steve Lacy's vast body of unaccompanied work could be just the tip of the iceberg. It's not such an anomaly is classical music. In fact, it's pretty commonplace. Maybe soon this "ugly duckling" format in jazz will grow up to be a beautiful swan.