A free-reed player named Judy Minot went on a tear about speed in response to another free-reed player saying she couldn’t go to a workshop because she couldn’t play fast enough. See Judy’s diatribe (her word) dated September 19, 2017, for her analysis of why it’s counterproductive to be discouraged if you can’t play a tune “at speed.”
One useful response was from someone who said, in essence, I play for dances and so sometimes I have to practice a tune faster than I can play it. What I work on is figuring out what I can do at tempo to make it sound good–what notes can I leave out, when can I play a drone, when can I play a chord instead of a bunch of single melody notes? A simplification isn’t a flaw, necessarily–it’s texture, and can be musical and fun. New synapses spring into being, maybe.
I think the discussion applies to a session, too–how to stay interested and engaged when you’re playing a tune slowly (Judy, plus what David often says about 25 iterations of Basic Tune X at 90 bpm*), and how to enjoy being on a roller coaster when you’re not altogether thrilled about the downhill plunges.
*a sauntering pace