Thanks to all of you!
Just so you know, I am not going to stop playing jazz. It's a music that is so near my heart that it would be foolishness to "give it up". I may experiment with different ideas, but improvisation in that idiom is and will remain my main area of musical focus. Thanks to you, I'm healing. I recently had a three-segment lumbar spinal cage-fusion surgery with six pedicle screws, 2 radiolucent rods, and 4 autograft bone implants. I should be able to play a concert in early or mid-2014.
I've tried to thank you so much for your help. I've felt a bit guilty about asking for help for such a long period of time . . . I have tried to keep you up-to-date on how I'm doing and what the neurosurgeon said at my last visit, what the limitations of this operation have bequeathed me, and what my general frame of mind is from day to day, month to month. I made an album called Reflections, in which the limitations were obvious, but which I found myself listening to frequently. And yet, it is all not over. I still remain at home, trying to "enjoy" an enforced vacation from the music I love.
I've read my pleas for help, and never thought I'd ask for it in such a stark, "please save me" kind of way, particularly on the Internet, a place exposed, a place of no privacy and much hooliganism. Yet I was mortally wounded, "blown apart" as Paul Simon sang, and I became naked of my own will, made transparent by circumstances and by our medical system. That this system is imperfect is well-documented, but its successes go unreported, and I do believe that I am to be such a success. I may never be able to fly on a plane again to exotic locales or play with the power and abandon that was mine to command in that other life — a life that seems a bit far away to me now . . . but I don't believe that my speed or intensity is what my playing was all about for most people.
I think that other folks responded to my search — sometimes bumbling but always sincere — for truth and beauty and a certain signature stamp, a kind of "true inner voice" that was identifiable and secure. Perhaps my music made people feel good. If that is the case, I am made deeply happy at such a fanciful thought.
I am changed by this event. It caused me to go inward as I have never done before. Physical limitation brings with it a new awareness of the beauty of every moment we are alive. How beautiful and intensely vivid the world seems to me now. Sensing myself in different ways, my awareness flows outward, to other cultures, arts, musics, and creative forms. The word "flow" describes the meaning of living for me now, along with a sense that 'truths' that I may have accepted or even embraced were very likely little more than encysted opinion and dogma.
I've practiced, done my own forms of physical therapy, eaten a lot of good food, and read a lot of great books. I have also strangely lost a lot of weight, which my doctor says is normal now that my body is in alignment with itself. I weighed 135 pounds when I was 18, and I weigh exactly that now. I can't put my stockings on yet, but I hope that'll come. I've tried to throw a Frisbee for my dog Angel, but it hurts to twist my frame too much, so her and I have settled on ball fetching. Mostly, I fetch, as the ball usually does not follow the course I intended . . . and it is still hard to reach that ball, so far below me on the ground.
I've written some beautiful tunes which I intend put lyrics to. I have started to write a string quartet. And I've watched movies, lots and lots of movies, usually very old movies, the kind that tell of stories within stories, plots within plots. These glimpses into our nation's past enthrall and captivate me. I even stumbled into loving the old Bing Crosby movies. He could sing and not even move his lips!
As for my own place in the order of things, I no longer worry about tomorrow as much because today, this moment and this experience, is all I really have. It's not worth worrying about futures when the present will become the future in the next instant. Worrying, wool-gathering, self-examination to the point of dissolution . . . worrying just shortens our lives, and our lives are so precious, so filled with surprise and mystery. The movies, like the music, continues to enthrall us. We are going through a rough time for our species, a crucible of sorts, and the best way to get through these times is together. Jazz is neither dead nor dying, but it may be wounded, and the best way back for me is the way of whimsy, the way that is the shortest distance between my piano and your heart.
We need beautiful things now. We need surcease and consolation from the barbs and the stings of constant irritants . . . an endless war, an unfathomable leadership, and far too many broken hearts, dreams, and lives. We need more than I alone can fix. We need the promise of hope returned, we need the end of dispute and the beginnings of a new awareness — the awareness of our oneness. In that, I can help a little bit. I can play a beautiful song, without fanfare or ego.
Yes, I can still play in my new and unique fashion, and have added many creative ideas to my inner voice. I am not "over" yet.
And, like Bing, I can do it all without moving my lips! - JW, Sep 20, 2013