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Focus on The Shed...

Are you hip to this truism?

–"Don't practice until you get it right...practice until you can't get it wrong!"

WheeeeeewwDOGGIES! THAT is a powerful truth when considering "The Shed" AKA "The Wood Shed" AKA "The place where we practice" –and an actual verb in jazz lingo: "MAN! I gotta shed that!"

But, yes. Practicing something until you can't play it incorrectly is DEEP. So much so, that I include it in Leadology Volume One multiple times. Why so passionate about this, you may ask? Well, I have LOTS of personal experience with doing the opposite, and I now want to follow the dictums of said truism. Much of what I currently have in my style repertoire came to me fairly quickly and organically, without much of a fight. I had years where I practiced most of each day, but the stuff that I use on a regular basis consists of a friendly bit of flubdub that I gravitated towards over the years with ease. At this point in my journey however, I have decided at last to dive into the more prickly arena of working up that-which-I-can-not-do (yet) And I must say, the prospects of doing so are thrilling!

In this endeavor, I am reminded (as I often am) of the teachings of one of my most important mentors, Slide Hampton. A story that I like to relate out on the guest artist and clinician circuit as well in my book has to do with a game that I used to play with the great man...I always tried to get him to accept a compliment. He was so humble (part of his great wisdom) that he would rarely if ever flat-out accept accolades without turning it into a teachable moment. When he received a Grammy for best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocals in 1997 (For the great Dee Dee Bridgewater's "Tribute to Ella Fitzferald" on the track "Cottontail." Check it out!) I thought that I had him! Here was our conversation:

Me: "Slide! Congrats on the Grammy! It must be so nice at this point in your life to finally receive some accolades for your work."

Slide: "You know Steve, I AM very excited at this point in my life!"

Me Thinking: Ha! I've got you now!

Slide: "Because now I know exactly what it is that I need to practice."

Me: "D'OH!"

Yep, another compliment turned on its head into an opportunity to pass on wisdom. And the lesson I learned? The true greats are ALWAYS improving themselves and getting better. One of the last things I ever heard Slide say was "I'm playing a lot these days, man Imma get REAL good!"


Therefore (and to wit!) I am embarking on a year-long journey of increased and organized practicing (shed time) to work on the stuff that I know that I need to work on. At the end of the year, I will record a new album that I will title "Testimony From The Shed" (that is, if the grant I applied for comes through. If not, you might just see some kind of crowd-source funding effort come along) This project will be a recording of straight ahead jazz with piano, bass, and drums where I will enjoy the opportunity to take all that I've learned for a spin! So, stay tuned for THAT!

This endeavor also has an underlying agenda in that everything that works for me will be chronicled, collected, and realized in Leadology Volume TWO. That tome is scheduled to be my take on technique, practicing in general, and improvisation. Both volumes together will equal a tool chest with everything that one would need to develop their lead trombone playing skills to the fullest. Such a deal!

So what is YOUR shed regime? I'd love to hear what you're working on and how you go about doing things on a daily basis. Lemme know in the comment section below. In the meantime...

Happy Shedding!


A Cuppa Shed Examples:

First up, my man Marshall Gilkes discussing a bit of that Voodoo that Heedoo via the auspices of Michael Davis' Hip-BoneU. If THIS doesn't get you inspired to hit the shed...please contact your primary care physician IMMEDIATELY.

And here is the legendary daily routine of the great Christian Lindberg. Initially, I thought that this was a delicious bit of self-deprecating satire on Christian's part, but at a masterclass of his that I saw recently he said that it is absolutely true! Of course, he certainly must adjust things for family, vacations, and touring, but apparently this is his actual routine whenever possible! (GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY...said the man who certainly does NOT organize his day in this manner...but is now highly motivated and inspired to get as close as possible to something similar.) Now that you mention it, ending each day with a wine and cheese celebration sounds like a grand idea (although I would opt for Guinness and pretzels :)

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