I once heard Tony Woods practising down a stairwell. He played a major scale in long notes, and it was so beautiful that it almost made me cry.
I’ve written about this before but it’s worth repeating. Paul Clarvis said Silence is golden, so if you’re going to break it, you better make a good sound. Sound is more important than time or rhythm, or meaning.
In the middle of a solo is not the moment to be worrying about the chords. This anxiety takes your attention away from the fact that you’re playing music for other people to hear. Sound and conviction suffers and what comes out is tentative, more a question than a statement.
If your fingers don’t know what to do, just play a note. Any note. Play it beautifully, play it with conviction, play it like Coltrane. Listen to it. Reflect on it. Ask yourself how it makes you feel. Ask yourself how it makes the audience feel. If you don’t like it, you can either play it again, just to be sure, or a different note. If you do like it, play it again. Or leave a bit of space and listen to what the rhythm section have to say about it.
People who are learning sometimes feel that they ought to play lines of notes (like their role models do) but they lack the chops. In public it’s better to play what you have mastered, even if that’s just single notes. Save the eighth-notes for when you have years of practice under your belt.