These participants play off each other, react to emergent streams of melody, contribute their own special talent to the music and pretty much work in a a self directed manner over the course of the performance.
While I'm not a fan of analogies, this is a useful one for the purpose here. There are certainly domains where the Jazz analogy describes what is going on in the trio in the picture to the left.
But what about other music? Music that is just as creative, just as moving, just as impactful to the listener. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony's Ode to Joy with the poem from Friedrich Schiller 1785 work is an example.
Words that have moved nations and populations. Following Beethoven's Ninth was a movie we saw over the weekend that described this result.
In the Ninth, each performer has a score to follow, led by the conductor, but also by the concert master and the senior players in each section. The vocals are also led by a senior performer.
In the software business there are likely similar domains and projects. Ones that can be improvised and ones that require conductors, a concert master, and players who follow the score.
In both cases - and this is where the analogy falls apart - is the players are highly skilled, experienced in the art, having played the basic themes 1,000 of times over before improvising or following the score.
The jazz performance is not made up as it goes. OK, fusion is, but that crap makes my head hurt. Melodies, rules for cords are practiced for 10,000 hours (Gladwell), relationships between the players have magical connections not available to mere mortals. The Jazz Trio and the Berlin Philharmonic are populated with highly skilled and experienced professionals. We've all heard our children play in the school band and know what that sounds like. All the platitudes in the world about agile axioms are of no worth without the necessary capabilities to actually get the work done properly.
Applying the notion that agile software development is like jazz makes as much sense as saying I can sit in the 3rd chair of the trombone section (my high school band position) and play my contribution to Beethoven's Ninth without a Curtis Institute degree in performance and 10 years experience (my aunt was a professional pianist in the late 1950's from Curtis).
It's not gonna happen - in both analogies - without the prerequisites of professional performance capabilities. Otherwise the result sounds like we're back in High School Music class with Mr. Meach (my teacher).
So how long will it take us to be capable performing to a level needed to not smell like we're high school kids in the marching band? I don't know let's make an estimate.