Concerts or Clubs?

In Notes and Tones, Art Taylor asks Max Roach whether he prefers playing clubs or concerts. Roach replies:
"I think it depends on the development of a person. As you develop, nightclubs are good. When I felt I wanted to play every second, it didn't matter where I played as long as I played, because I wanted to learn. But at my present age if I didn't know anything about the instrument by now, it would be ludicrous for me to go into those little joints and play like I used to. There are other people now who need that kind of experience. Today I prefer to play concerts. First of all, I have prepared myself for that. Second, it's economically much more rewarding, because you can get more people into a concert hall; therefore you can ask for more money. You can do things musically on a broader scale, because a concert hall can accommodate so many people that you can afford to add other things. However, I think nightclubs are good proving grounds for people who feel that they want to develop a sound and develop themselves. It's all good."
As everyone knows, the days of the week-long (or sometimes weeks-long) club engagements are long over. Now that I'm in musical school full-time, I see that way that music school provides a temporary substitute for the older apprenticeship/club date model of learning. As Roach says, " didn't matter where I played as long as I played," so practicing all day at school and playing sessions at school at night is another way to clock hours of experience making music with others. 

But it almost goes without saying that playing sessions at musical school doesn't provide the same type of education as playing in clubs. You're paying to play, rather than being paid to play (as little as that might have been). Additionally, the pressure of playing for an audience of listeners and also possibly other musicians changes the way that you play. 

There's also the aspect of endurance: last semester, Herbie Hancock shared a story at Harvard about one of his first big breaks: a stretch of club dates with Coleman Hawkins in Chicago, which he took on while he was still working a day job at the post office. The dates were punishing: four sets a night, six nights a week, plus Sunday matinĂ©e shows—all while Herbie had to get up early in the morning to work at the post office (he quit after a couple days of trying to do both. His boss allegedly shouted to him, "You're making a big mistake, Hancock!"). Endurance and consistency go hand in hand, it seems, and I bet that playing such a high volume of shows on a regular basis helped make Herbie one of the most consistent, dependably swinging pianists in the music's history.

Sessions do have their advantages, though: with less pressure comes more willingness to experiment (although this isn't necessarily always the case in practice), and there's more space to workshop compositions—particularly more involved compositions. In other words, there's less pressure to prepare a great deal of music in a short period of time (although said pressure can be good as well—teaching how to write efficiently catchy, easy-to-remember tunes). But what happens after school? Having lived in New York the past few summers, it seems clear that unless you have a session space of your own, it's not always easy to be playing sessions all the time, factoring in non-music-related work/day job, commuting time (I'm remembering all the pleasant hours spent on the N/Q from Astoria to Brooklyn), and just plain logistics.

On another note, I'm interested by the natural progression that Roach implies in his response: nightclubs are for people who still need "to develop a sound and develop themselves," whereas concert halls are presumably spaces to present that mature sound to a larger audience with ideas "on a broader scale." As I see more and more of my friends and peers announcing their gigs online, I've been observing a trend toward presenting them as either casual announcements ("playing at ______ restaurant from __ to __, come thru") or as concerts, replete with specially-designed posters, event descriptions, music samples, and sometimes even video previews. In a way, it seems that there's no alternative but to promote occasional "serious" (i.e., non-wallpaper) gigs as concerts: this is it, and there's no next set or we're here through Sunday, stick around and be sure to catch Horace Silver here next week. 

There's a casual virtuosity that I love about recordings of the great working bands—not just virtuosity in terms of chopsiness, but in terms of ethos and delivery: the way rhythm sections can catch on to ideas or catch the soloist when something unexpected happens. Those gigs were serious affairs, musically, but I imagine that there was a different feeling knowing that you had set after set, night after night, to keep pushing and exploring. 

In a jazz styles survey course that I'm required to take to graduate, the professor mentioned how comparisons of multiple takes of early Louis Armstrong recordings (not to mention other early recordings in general) reveal general formulas or schemes for solos, with the various takes reflecting differing variants of the same. One reason offered in explanation was economic: it's just too costly to try different things with each take—better just to know what you're going for and do versions of that. I wonder if the current economic playing climate has a similar chilling effect on risk-taking. 

In any case, I don't think it makes sense to hope for a return to the old club model anytime soon, but I'm increasingly wondering how creative musicians these days maintain their creative outlets after music school. I know about Steve Coleman's research trips—periods of time spent with core groups of musicians exchanging information and ideas, often across cultures—which in a way compensates for the absence of opportunities to perform with the same musicians night after night, but that's just one approach.

In what ways can we compensate for the lack of this way of learning and developing, and in what ways does its extinction free us in pursuing other creative pursuits? It's not like club dates were ideal outlets of creativity, either—plenty of restrictions came with the territory, especially in terms of bringing in the crowds, surely not all of whom were the jazz nerds who flock to shows these days. What are your thoughts?