At times, the word survival is tied in with a new album by way of metaphor or to express the deep importance of said release. In this forthcoming artist/album exposé, it's the truest kind of notion you will understand . . .
The 2022 album Lifeline and it comes from the very esteemed veteran jazz guitarist, John Stein based in Boston, with deep Kansas City roots.Stein recently retired from Berklee College of Music after a long career to focus on recording and live gigs. He said in an interview,"Just as was COVID slowed down and I was getting gigs about a year ago, I was stricken with an autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis.”
“I had been healthy all my life, continued Stein, “I hadn't even heard of this disease. Our immune systems protect us from things outside of our bodies. In some cases, they get corrupted and attack us."Hissymptoms began in his eyes and was initially misdiagnosed. Once it was correctly recognized, he was hospitalized on October 8, 2021.
"When it began, it was a crisis, he continued, I was very fortunate to be in the hospital. My swallowing muscles didn't work. I may have suffocated if I wasn't in the hospital. I was in the ICU for a few weeks with a feeding tube. We just didn't know how much of me was going to come back after this was over.”
When Stein was first diagnosed, the doctor told him that they didn't know what causes the disease, but they did know how to treat it. John held onto that notion and further he was bolstered by the first visit in the hospital from someone that wasn't a family member. That was Neal Weiss, owner of Whaling City Sound. Stein’s longtime record label.
"I was communicating by writing with him. My mouth and tongue were not working," said John. "Since I couldn't put out a new record, Neal offered to put out a compilation album of my work. It was expensive and a huge gift. It kept me alive."From there, Neal culled through 16 albums, spanning the entirety of Stein’s career. Beginning with with his 2007 release, Green Street all the way up to his latest album, Serendipity, from last year. It includes 32 tracks and a remembrance of Stein’s stellar career.
"It's wonderful exposure to what I have done in my career,” John said. “From duets to large groups. Wonderful musicianship from everyone involved.”
“I'm a very democratic bandleader,” continued John. “I don't impose and am very open to ideas. I have gotten so much benefit from listening (to) and implementing sidemen’s suggestions."Stein finally returnedhome on December 8, 2021.
Even though he was home, there was no guarantee he was out of the woods yet.
"At the time I was putting this album together,” said Stein, “I had no idea if I was going to be able to play the guitar again," John said. "I had just come home from the hospital and my wife brought the guitars down to me. I wept at the beauty of them. I hadn't seen them in two months."
After months of rehab, proven drugs, experiments and sheer determination, 10 months later, Stein is getting close to full strength. He's more thankful than ever. In fact, he's flat out fortunate.
"I'm starting to gig again. I have a big gig on November 4th at Scullers Jazz Club here in Boston," John said. "The promoter of this show believes he can book me in major clubs up and down the coast, as well. "For an album that likely saved his life and provides so much rich music of a Kansas City born musician ready to get started again, he's looking forward to being 100 percent again.
"If somebody wants to know what I sound like, this is it. It's (really) good music," John said. "Yet, I'm looking forward to accomplishing much more and moving on to music for a new album."
John 'The Phoenix' rises again. Godspeed to Lifeline.
by Joe Dimino
** The Full John Stein Neon Jazz Interview - https://youtu.be/PyHmIFGQRic