Sometimes my bandmates mock me, all in good fun, on Black Orpheus. I always play the same solo, verbatim, and frankly some of us think of that more than the melody when we call the song. Maybe that’s a bit hoary, but I figure it’s something I gradually perfected over a year or two of playing it.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong–or in fact original–about having a standard solo for a song. That’s all Ornithology is, and often people study and transcribe the solos on favourite hero recordings. It’s something I can play cleanly and with a sure hand, and I don’t have to worry about a creative off-night.
That isn’t the only song where I’ve worked out “my” solo, and on several other songs I have a partial chorus–I always do the same thing in the second eight bars, or some such. Same with harmonies – I always play the same harmony on Black Orpheus and Blue Bossa and any number of other tunes.
And yes, sometimes I decide to mix things up and not play my standard solo. I find that having gone through the exercise, I know the song better than others where I’m still experimenting or just prefer to keep it open-ended. Most importantly, though, I know a prepared solo is going to have musical sense and structure. A good off-the-cuff solo does too, and you have to taste your freedom to discover something better than what you have, so I don’t think it’s good to ossify on more than a small percentage of the book.