My impression is that this description refers to breaks, and the ODJB played many of them, I think more than any other group. The whole orchestra stops, "One member tootles merrily" and then the band resumes. The individual expression is the break, and not yet the solo.
Are there real solos on ODJB recordings, i.e. by an instrument accompanied only by rhythm (in this case p/d) ?
Maybe Shields in St. Louis Blues is the first solo (though with rhythmic sax effects?), and even the vocal is accompanied by the full band).
There are no solos on Lazy Daddy (1918) and Margie (1920), recorded before and after the UK trip.
A similar lack of real solos can be heard at the wonderful first recordings by the George Lewis band in New Orleans in 1943, with Kid Howard, trumpet. Here a "solo" means that one instrument plays louder, and the others softer.
I would argue that Larry Shields definitely plays a 24-bar solo in "St Louis Blues." Listen at 2:20-2:56. Perhaps, the first clarinet solo in a jazz record.
As to the description in "Town Topics" of April 12th, 1919, I believe that the statement
At one moment the whole orchestra would down tools while one member tootled merrily or eerily on his own account, and then they would resume again, always ready to give a fair hearing to any other individual player who suddenly developed a "stunt."
could easily be applicable to "breaks" as well as to "solos." The writer calls these "stunts." Are they breaks or solos? I would guess both.
I agree that few solos are heard in ODJB recordidngs. But how do we know what the band played in live performances? The band was not restricted by time constraints associated with the recording technology of the late 1910s and early 1920s. It is quite possible that they did play solos in live performances and that the writer of the "Town Topics" article not knowing what word to use to refer to solos used the word "stunt." Indeed, a solo is a stunt (Dictionary definition: A feat displaying unusual strength, skill, or daring.)