The West Coast Groove

There’s a handful of albums I can put on when I’m feeling like a burning pile of garbage that will instantly make me feel better. Whatever psychological purgatory I may be in will subside for the moment and I’ll feel a little more human. Boards Of Canada’s Geogaddi is one of them. The Beatles Revolver is another. One other is The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out. I think out of all of them Brubeck’s timeless album of west coast jazz and Pacific ocean chill is my favorite to get myself right again with.

I’ve been having back issues for close to a month now. It started with some lower back pain, then it seemed to move into my right hip. A couple of weeks ago after a workout I came home and my right leg had a burning sensation. It started in my hip and moved all the way down to my foot. I had numbness in my big toe, as well as part of my shin. I chalked it up to sciatic problems. Well after almost two weeks of this I started to wake up in the middle of the night with a slow churning dull ache in my hip that went down through my shin. I relented and went to the doc. After an x-ray and an MRI it was decided I had a bulging disc in my lower back, which is what was causing the numbness and weakness in my leg. The disc was(and still is) pressing against a nerve in my spine. Really fun stuff. Well, yesterday I met with a one Dr. Hoffman. He’s a spinal orthopedic surgeon. He took his own x-rays and after a few flexibility tests and dexterity tests he showed me the wonderful x-rays of my completely screwed up back. I have a herniated disc, which happened because I have degenerative disc disease. Which I have because of genetics.

F*****g genetics, man.

What does all that mean? It means my back’s kind of messed up. The doc asked me if I’d had back problems my whole life and I told him not really. Just the usual wear and tear, no worse than anyone else. He was shocked to hear that from me. So in order to improve and to get the numbness to go away and the strength back in my leg I need to have a minor procedure done in order to remove the segment of the disc that’s pressing against the nerve. Gotta go under the knife(or under the blade as Twisted Sister once sang) and get this crap taken care of. Not sure when, but I’m hoping within the next couple of weeks.

I’m missing my daily workouts, so I want this done sooner rather than later. I’m also missing that gallant stride of mine as I walk proudly through the city streets, desolate desert highways, and record store aisles. I’m currently at more of the pace of a peg-legged pirate than John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever. Soon enough I should have that back. Until then, I make the most of my limp.

FullSizeRender (43)So I’m currently sitting on my couch typing this and listening to Brubeck’s “Three To Get Ready”. Time Out is a record filled with cool and chill vibes. Until I got to know this record I always felt the best jazz came out of New York City. For the most part I think it still does, but Dave Brubeck made me think twice about it. For one, Brubeck’s right hand man for years was the amazing saxophonist Paul Desmond. To look at Desmond he seemed nothing more than a high school biology teacher, but looks can be deceiving. He was a chain-smoking, booze-swilling ladies man that could swing as good as any New York cat. He was to Brubeck what Charlie Rouse was to Monk, or John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter were to Davis. His playing was well-calculated. It wasn’t blustery or over the top, but restrained and meticulous. Where the New York jazz scene was more edgier and out to melt minds with explosions of sound and fiery improvisations, The Dave Brubeck Quartet kept things to a tempered roar. This was the kind of music that was often accompanied with a pack of Pall Malls and a scotch neat. These guys could be playing “Pick Up Sticks” five feet away in someone’s sunken living room overlooking the Hollywood hills and you could still have an intimate conversation with the lovely brunette who was practically falling out of her dress. That’s not to say Brubeck and his band couldn’t cut loose. One listen to “Blue Rondo A La Turk” and you knew these guys meant business. But even in all it’s technical prowess and breakneck moments the song has time to slow down and groove in the middle section.

It’s all about the groove.

FullSizeRender (45)Besides The Dave Brubeck Quartet, you had guys like Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Art Pepper, and Lennie Niehaus that came from the West Coast as well. Even one of today’s best jazz composers, Kamasi Washington, comes from California. But for me, Brubeck epitomizes the West Coast sound and “Take Five” is the anthem of West Coast cool. The calling card of everything Cali chill. A Paul Desmond composition, “Take Five” is this anthem of slickness that coasts along on Joe Morello’s ever present ride cymbal while Brubeck emotes beautifully on his ivory keys. The sound of Paul Desmond’s sax elicits the vision of a dimly lit living room with the heavy air of lingering cigarette smoke and expensive perfume on cheap dames, the tinkling of ice in a glass, and the brown and burnt orange hues of late-50s decor. Is that a Picasso hanging on the wall behind Brubeck? Might be. This is a song that even the littlest of kids recognize from somewhere. It’s timeless.

So today Brubeck is helping me forget about that pain in my back and the impending surgical procedure. Regardless of how simple a procedure it may be, I’m still rather apprehensive. What choice do I have? I don’t really have one folks. Just gotta deal with it. Go at it head on and get to healing. Brubeck is helping me with that.

8 thoughts on “The West Coast Groove

  1. Argh! Best of luck when the surgery rolls around, JH. Hope it’s soon and hope the recovery is swift, also … strolling through those record store aisles, etc will never feel better! Keep us posted!

    As for yor choice of grooves? Nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Time Out is an album that cheers me up. Hope it works for you too.
    Backs are buggers. My partner has three herniated discs from her first career as a nurse. I sympathise. Hope the surgery is smooth and the recovery quick. Focus on that recuperation play-list.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really sorry to hear about your back – mine’s not great, despite my being built like two Conans, but it’s only muscular stuff.

    But if any jazz LP can soothe your pains it’ll be this one. He never gets the credit he deserves for being pretty radical, fronting an integrated band at the time he did. It’s a real favourite of mine this, took me until last year until I could find a good enough copy for the right (cheap!) price.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you sir. It’s good to know that even a Herculean immortal like yourself struggles with a tricky back from time to time. Someday when I’m made of pure adamantium hopefully my struggles will stop and I can get back to world domination.

      I found my copy at a Half Price Books store for $5.99 and in pretty great shape. One of those lucky finds.


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