A musician on the mend


e received a message from Robert Burton the other day, which included a file of some music he recorded just this past weekend with his trio. Robert is a music educator (River Heights Music is his project), leader of a couple of variations of a “Burton Trio” (one with vocals, courtesy of his wife Adelle), and when he puts down his jazz hat he picks up the drum sticks and plays in a local rock band. He is also a contributor to our Beautiful Mercy book and CD project; in fact, he was the first person to suggest making a musical contribution to what had been originally conceived as a book of art and words.

Now, it might not strike anyone as unusual that a musician might send along a sample recording – in fact Rob has done that before, passing along a great version of Bill Frissell’s “The Rambler” – but in this case it actually marks something of a victory.

You see, early in September Robert had a bike accident that resulted in a pretty serious break in his arm, requiring a marathon surgery and ongoing therapy. At least at first he (along with anyone who saw him at the hospital) wondered if it marked the end (or at least the limiting) of his career as a musician.

And so the fact that less than six weeks after the accident he had a song to send? That’s good news. What follows here are excerpts of the update Robert sent, along with the recording itself.

Where I used to have a normal elbow I have three plates and uncountable screws and a whole lot of fluid that will be replaced with scar tissue. I hope to get a copy of the x-rays but clearly my days of sailing through airport security are over (and I think I set off the security at HMV the other day).

Overall I am ahead of anyone’s schedule (except mine). I have no feeling in my pinky and only 70% in my ring finger and I have limited mobility in the fingers for now. How long? No one can tell me could be a coupla of months could be a year. There is a small chance it won’t come back at all and I will need another surgery to take a nerve from elsewhere in my body and have it put in my arm. I have about 25% of my original hand strength and it swells up a lot hampering it further. While the cast, staples and big bandage are gone I have to wear a compression glove to keep the swelling from getting out hand (yes I made that pun) I have about 10-15° of movement in my elbow right now…plenty enough for guitar but not for much else like eating or shaving.

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(click on the arrow, to hear a simple live recording of Robert’s trio performing “How Insensitive”)

The limited mobility in the hand and fingers means my finger/hybrid style playing, Lenny Breau type harmonics, Wes-style comping and chord melody solo guitar things are gone for a while. I can’t play bass at all really, drumming is out till I get cleared for load/weight bearing though I am working on my one handed snare drum roll (no joke), piano is out though I am working on stuff (comping/bass lines/scales) with my left hand.

On the 21st I get a new set of x-rays and it will be determined them if I can start getting into load/weight bearing if so I can start back playing drums and a little more piano.

The update goes on to explain the implications for fly-fishing (one of his other great passions), and to give some credit where credit is due… “I think I am doing well but that is in no small part to the care and love of my wife Adelle.”

Peace and blessings to both of you, and may you continue to find the strength and resiliance in your recovery, Robert. It is good to hear you playing again.

One Response to A musician on the mend

  1. byron says:

    Necessity is the mother of invention Rob. You will no doubt learn some new techniques to incorporate into your playing thru this recovery. I once read that Wes invented his style partly because his wife complained about his volume in their small apt. God bless and heal you.

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