Welcome to the Faye Patton website with featured blog post -The ‘Woodshed’.

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(Image from The Girls in The Band.)

The ‘woodshed’. That place where jazzers go to practice. How to explain to friends, family, loved ones and significant others, (and even some fellow musicians), the sovereignty, the absolute non-negotiable sanctity of the woodshed? How to really convey this?

I spend hours and hours and hours alone, in a room with myself and my instrument (s). And I love it. I think I love it more than anything or anyone. Only the pure ecstasy of performing – of going to the other end of the scale, of  extrovert, gregarious all out curtain-up showtime beats it. Very little else. Anyone who has had to fight for this sacred chunk of devoted artistic time can recognise its true value. Painters and writers know. Also nuns, monks, hermits, ascetics, celibates and renunciates.

Things I might do in the ‘woodshed’ might include the following: composition/arrangement, then drilling through and memorising guitar parts for various solo or collaborative projects. Or, maybe the world has literally DISAPPEARED because a song is coming through, coaxing, teasing or exploding its way through the veil. For me, new music comes unbidden, uninvited and with extravagant pomp and splendour. An idea grabs onto a random hook or scale that I was practising anyway, then not just one song but 4, then a surrounding concept album are suddenly THERE, all at once, demanding refinement. It’s a visceral experience of birthing something that will have its way and just HAS to come through. A feeling bothravenous and ravening. Or I might be just in a hypnotic grip of scales and arpeggios, diminished  and major 7ths all up and down the fretboard. Stamina for hands and fingers. For ages. Or the geeky joy of 2 handed tapping in kind of Nu metal/classical way that is frank and pure indulgence. People might fairly observe that playing guitar or indeed anything on your own for hours is kind of wanky. Well, maybe, but we all need that too. For myself, I feel an intense kind of dialogue  with music as a companion and the instrument as a partner that gives back exactly what I give out.

But yes, it’s a love affair.

The woodshed is about more than practice and preparation. (These are of course, essential, but as we know, can be overdone at the expense of spontaneity and creativity onstage, in the moment.) It’s about maintaining a bedrock of physical and technical ease. Being good to go. It’s about knowing the materialbackwards. Being able to tap into that wellspring of  energy. I cannot feel good about stepping onstage, unless I know I have taken care of my practice. I have to connect with that source every day, if possible. It’s nothing less than a spiritual discipline. Even though I also do a fair bit of staring into space, dreaming and scratching my head…

I could rhapsodise further but…the woodshed calls…’bye for now.

 

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(Trombone player, Melba Liston featured in The Girls in The Band.) 

 The Girls in the Band is a documentary by director Judy Chaikin. Contains glorious archive footage of the great female jazz bands of the ’40′s as well as interviews and music from contemporary musicians. Enjoy this trailer and track down the full film if you can!

 


 

 

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Beginner’s Mind

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Whatever it is, begin it. Everyday. Start again. Don’t think about the time you have left, or may have wasted. Eyes in front. Start. Don’t look at the clock. Time is a poor container. Only connect deeply with the content that you have to do, then do. Sink magically and with conviction into your content and master time. Think in chunks, slices, segments, ribbons, minutes or epochs. It doesn’t matter. Just begin and begin every single second if you have to. Begin. When did you, as a being, as a process, begin? You always have been. In reality, you never were not and never will not be – in some form or other. There will always just be now. Even before, that was still now, from the point of view of then…so, get present and stop worrying about the illusion, the veritable tyranny of the linear. It’s not real. Even if you are 1 minute from death, use that minute to begin what you always wanted to do or be. Sounds mad? It’s about how you think about it. Just wake up! That faraway voice in the back of your head. That is the alarm clock. Begin the rest of your life – now!

Begin. Step out into thin air. There is glory in the attempt. Just do it. Allow it. if you have any sort of spiritual life, you know that you are just an instrument of some bigger cause. A precious fragment of an expanding idea playing with its own edges and limits. Therefore, what have you to lose? Did you waste the morning through sloth or procrastination? You still have the afternoon.

If you have trouble starting, it’s all about perception and attitude. How do you begin your day? Make it enjoyable in whatever way suits you. Welcome it in. Think about how you enter your day and also how you leave – as entry into the dream/sleep world is also a beginning, waking up on the other side.

Do you have trouble finishing? Well, finishing is also a beginning – the beginning of the new transition into the next phase that your project or accomplishment has caused. We are just reference points upon an unfolding skein of existence.

In the worlds of  jazz improvisation or martial arts manoeuvres, you may think you know everything there is – every lick, hook, sleight of hand, combination of kicks, punches and locks. You may have a virtuoso tool kit, honed by experience and years of study. But you never know the context, the form your challenges may take, or the new travelling companions that may turn up. Be prepared for absolute surprises in each and every moment. Do not expect things to take a certain course because that’s what always happened previously. Life favours long periods of routine followed by wrenching, paradigm bucking, imagination warping change.

That means you too! Get ready to begin!


 

 

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Feeling Good!


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Here’s me singing Feeling Good (copyright Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse) at Million Women Rise, Trafalgar Sq. 8th March 2014. Thanks to Manchester hip hop fusion musicians AJAHUK  for filming.

Million Women Rise is a UK based but uniquely international, grassroots civil rights movement which seeks to end all forms of violence against girls and women.

Official event photographer: Frederique Rapier.

Support and International Human Rights for Lesbian/gay asylum seekers: Movement For Justice.


 

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Thoughts On Music And Martial Arts.

I practice Aikido, Wing Chun kung fu and Tai Chi. On two occasions, I have found myself in A + E with an injured hand. The first time was an avulsion fracture on my right thumb incurred during Aikido. I literally chopped downwards onto someone’s head. (they were supposed to duck, but didn’t. Bone on bone – ouch.) The second was a less serious but at first equally inconveniencing and very stiff torn muscle in my palm. (Caused by an intense boxing session without warming up the hands first.)

 

Both times, casualty staff looked at me as though I was mad when I explained that yes I did rough ‘contact sports’…and was also  a professional pianist and guitarist. Their faces actually showed  far more pain than I was in. I wanted to say, ”no really, it’s all alright – and here’s why!” For me there’s a natural, mutually enhancing relationship whereby martial arts feeds directly into music and back again. I’d recommend every aspiring martial artist study some sort of musical discipline and vice versa. A martial art, like dancing, requires a strong sense of left/right brain and body co-ordination. You combine an alphabet of set moves, with wider principles and patterns. At best, you want to be able to improvise communicate and express, solo and with others. In all cases, hands are of vital importance, so is breathing. Professional singers know that our craft involves athletic levels of abdominal support and breath control. The language of music and fighting can overlap in ways both metaphorical and concrete. MCs can ‘battle’ on the mic. Boxers can spar with broken rhythm, lyrically or poetically. Or box in phrases (punches in bunches). Negotiating the industry requires ninja stealth and courage, stoic resilience, patience, timing, Yoda-like calm and the ability to strike when the iron is hot. Some tips for basic hand maintenance include: soaking your hands after training in hot water after training. This is also true after marathon gig or practice sessions. Always take time to rotate wrists in circles before martial arts training. Visualise  energy evenly distributed throughout the hand and whether it is a palm strike or a fist that you are using – make it neat. Stray fingers bent back or caught in someone’s Gi, belt or nose, really hurt like hell! If like me, you have classical guitar nails, wrap them with the wonderful invention that is micropore tape. Massage the fleshy parts of the palm before boxing. When you box pads or bags remember to employ technique, not force and again visualise your energy evenly distributed, like light or plant sap through your forearm. Forearms and the tendons they contain are very important. Bruce Lee’s notebooks have whole chapters about them. He did ’Zottman curls’, which I recommend. Holding a reasonably heavy dumbbell in each hand, and keeping the arm still, rotate slowly and evenly from the elbow in a clockwise direction. Alternate sides so that you have room to do it! The trick is to do that descending curve nice and slow. If you have played guitar for a long time, your forearm tendons will be in pretty good shape, but I do like this extra exercise. Avoid hard/hard contact such as knuckles on heads or other knuckles. If you do break or strain something remember that as a martial artist your pain threshold might be too high to realise it. Especially if you are flooded with endorphins and adrenaline, therefore know your own limits and warning signals.

 

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Some resources if you injure your hands:

Musicians Benevolent Fund

Musician’s Clinic

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine

Musician’s Union

I include this for fun – an example of 3 musicians displaying warrior prowess and a study in hand and wrist mastery. The Trio Project  (Hiromi Uehara,  Anthony Jackson and Simon Philips) live at the Tokyo Blue Note. The Trio project will be playing at Cadogan Hall here in London, 13th/14th/15th April.

 

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Survival Tips For Musicians.

Survival Tips For Musicians.

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I was asked recently to share my survival tips in the form of a guest blog article for London Jazz News.
You can read the slightly shortened article HERE.
Here’s my original stream of ideas…

Bruce Lee talked about the importance of ‘travelling alongside the barrier’ not breaking yourself against it. He also counselled that everyone’s journey will include that barrier, obstacles being the universal experience, not the individual experience of any one oppressed group. He should know. He met with constant industry barriers and personal demons and in fact did not survive past 32. Still, his insights, achievements, films and notebooks are of philosophical and practical benefit to us today. In my  20 years of studying Aikido, I encounter repeatedly the principle of yielding/rolling away safely and living to fight another day.

If you want to survive in music, you have to totally accept that time, (like money) is an illusion. Aim for longevity and consistency and repetition. Never go away, never give up. Think big, whilst attending to the everyday details of what needs doing each day to advance the goal. Trust that people will start to recognise your name.

If you want to survive sexism, and misogyny in any industry, zoom back and look at what’s going on globally. Historical and current oppression of women and girls through religious programming, economic hardship, Capitalist/Imperialist plunder war and sexual enslavement is systemic and worse than ever. Take a deep breath and realise that you were born into a longterm malfunctioning paradigm – you didn’t invent it. Therefore forgive yourself that you can’t personally surmount it overnight. Take heart from the fact that many, many, many people are well and truly sick of it. Cultivate solidarity with female projects and initiatives, and mentoring networks. Accept and enjoy professional solidarity from both guys and women. This epoch in history will pass, like all the others. Change is underway.

Be aware of reputation. Cultivate it consciously. Your actions are powerful. If you hire musicians, treat them well, speak of others well, be aware that you function as part of a community and that your actions and words reflect upon you. Cultivate connection and right relationship. We draw that which is like, unto ourselves. I have tried and trusted personnel that I work with over and over again. Band members, mentors, engineers, venue managers – we stand the test of time. Build and keep a team of extended and expanding professional family and keep it tight and good-natured. Pay debts, get paid. Work clean.

With so much emphasis on social media and internet marketing and promotion and the onus upon the individual artist like never before, we are living on the edge of a business paradigm that changes daily. There is an option (even subtle obligation) to be available 24 hours a day via social media. On top of this you have to practice and rehearse your actual music. It’s brutal. Periodically, allow yourself a regular retreat into darkness and quiet. You are an animal, not a machine. Avoid burn-out by getting outside into nature and away from computers as often as possible.

Be aware and sceptical about the current plethora of  business advice out there, some of it New Age/Law of Attraction in tone. Much of it is common sense and true but think twice before paying through the nose for it. It may be stuff that you could have worked out yourself. Skim it, apply the principles but stay grounded, stay independent and focus on the content of what you do. ‘Advertising speak’ van be very corrosive to the artistic soul. When people talk about ‘branding’ it just means be clear and consistent in what you are selling and where customers can find it.

Be joyous – or what’s the point? Music mogul Russell Simmons recently said in an interview,  ”Money doesn’t make you happy – happy makes you money.”

The art that you make, and the gut instinct to create and express has to come from a place of raw love. The work must be done first
and foremost for its own sake, from a place of pride and sincerity in order for it to withstand the long haul. Every now and agin, this is worth reviewing.

Successful people tend to have huge ups and downs and have no fear of taking risks. They know that the tools required to survive both poverty and riches, are the same. Stay cool, hang on to your hat. know that it’s an illusion and could change at any minute, so be alert, be curious and get ready to have fun!

Once you’ve listened to me on SoundCloud, please come find me on Facebook, Twitter,  JazzCDS and YouTube.

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