Or is it the musical equivalent of taking Latin in school?
A recent article on jazz.com asked the question: Have bass solos ruined jazz? I found this article through a double bass player's email list. What surprised me most about the response was not "bass solos belong in jazz" or "jazz is not ruined", but "bass solos didn't ruin jazz...this did!" There were different theories on what ruined it and why it's no longer popular, mostly involving its evolution into something only other musicians can enjoy.
So why is it still played? Why do people study it in school?
Of course, the death of jazz does have its upside: Smooth Jazz RIP 1985 - 2008?