I’ve been living with my problem shoulder from last September when I tore one of my two remaining tendons in my rotator cuff.  It took me until March to get an unlikely operation—that is, my shoulder was so bad that only a handful of local surgeons would have operated.  Well, one of the really good ones did and, as my regular readers know, I’m in a 18-24 month recovery mode—with the clear information if I somehow screw this up, there’s no do-over.

So okay, I’m good about the exercises, PT, icing, and work hard not to get fucked up in order to be certain I won’t fall.  Protection, protection, protection.

I gotta say this has become a “teaching moment” for me.  I’m learning what I can and can’t do.  Some wasn’t all that bad.  Sleeping sitting up became tolerable, unable to drive was, at first, initially less of a hassle than I’d imagined.  But after a couple of months, both got really old.  Am happy to report that I now sleep in a bed and able to drive around the city.  And while the surgeon was extraordinary, my physical therapist was godsend.  I’d write an entire column about her but she’d be embarrassed so all I’ll say is that I owe my ongoing recovery to her.

But I’m not writing this to talk about what I can do but rather what I can’t.

I can’t play the sax.  I’m not speaking musically here but physically.  Although writing/editing/proofing has given me a sense of artistic pleasure, I miss the hell out of playing.  And while I take lessons in ear training (trying to learn to hear major or minor chords and notes) it just ain’t the same.

Although there are moments on my “music” night (Tuesday) that I find difficult when I listen to the ensemble in which I play, but I’d rather be there than home.  These are my friends.  My group.

Every year Music Maker Studios ( has a recital.  I’m sure what jumps immediately to mind is individual kids struggling their way through their performance and, in truth, that is part of the concert.  But Bob, owner/teacher/friend is one of the few working musicians and teachers who welcomes adult and adult beginners.  Which means that different adult jazz groups are interspersed throughout the day, some of which play at local clubs in Boston.

I really didn’t think much about not being able to play with my ensemble and quintet other than some original relief about not spending the huge amount of time it takes for me to prepare.  And I do mean huge.  Plus, I was certain I wouldn’t miss the sweaty palms, frozen fingers, trembling hands stage fright that always happened before we’d begin our set.

The first inkling that my original relief might have been misplaced began when I watched the group rehearse.  Although the songs chosen weren’t particularly easy to play, I really wanted to try—especially since this year there were a couple of R & B tunes.  Plus, I have benefit of playing second tenor which means that if I miss a note (or notes) it’s always covered by Jim who, had he chosen to become a pro, would have succeeded.

But even during the rehearsals I really had no inkling about how I was going to feel at the recital.

Really no inkling.  I arrived for the morning session (despite that our group 8 Bars Chort was to lead off the afternoon) since I wanted to support all the students and Bob for all he’s done for me.

Well, by the time 8 Bars hit the stage I was totally funked out.  These were my friends, ensemble mates, and there I was sitting in the back row of the auditorium with no place to go and nothing to do.  At that moment I just wanted to disappear.

The group swung into the first song and it jumped.  Was great to hear but drove me lower and deeper into my seat.

Then it was shock time.  Our multi-instrument (soprano, alto, flute, tenor) player and singer Emily Karstetter grabbed the microphone, called me onto the stage, explained that although I was a group member why I hadn’t been up there, then sat me down next to her, and sang The Nearness of You.

Crazy how quickly a mood can change.  From completely bummed to tearish appreciation and, most importantly, the feeling of once again belonging.  Turned out that the group had been trying to figure out a way to get me onto the stage and Emily just grabbed the opportunity.  For which I will always be grateful.  Those sweet sort of things don’t happen often and I will always cherish that moment.

Love you Emmy.  And thank you 8 Bars.

I placed a video of the song on my Facebook author’s page if people are interested.  Also, if you happen to find the page worthwhile, by all means ‘like’ it.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus