"Acquiring a familiarity with a particular style of improvisation frequently involves performing the same piece, or limited group of pieces, over and over. This allows the musician time to become intimately familiar with one particular stylistic "groove", to experiment with different possibilities within the parameters of its aesthetic, and in so doing to "push back" the limitations of a proscribed form of spontaneous creativity to an acceptable distance. The fact that North Indian musicians tend to study and perform in a relatively small number of ragas -perhaps fifteen - during the course of a lifetime illustrates this tendency. Dexter Gordon's repertory, as another example, contained a surprisingly finite number of songs which he constantly reshaped and altered over the course of his performance career.
Robin Moore. The Decline of Improvisation in Western Art Music: An Interpretation of Change. International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Jun., 1992), p. 65.
Not much to add here really; just been meaning to get this up in scholarly support of some things I've written recently. I'm struck by how our contemporary musical culture is so at odds with this well-known dynamic, mostly, I would posit, as a result of our capitalistic society, where "eclectic" is often little more than code for "employable." Of course, by this standard, I've undoubtedly overcommitted myself as well; I'm intrigued, though, at the possibility that my diverse musical interests might have deeper commonalities from which issues of style merely distract attention, something that seems more and more apparent even as I continue to collect metiers against my better judgment.