For enigmatic saxophonist Skerik, much of 2023 has been marked by uncertainty. While he had a busy year of gigs planned—including dates with his own various projects, special appearances with a slew of others, and a 41-date national tour with the newly regrouped Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade—all of his plans were derailed in mid-April when he suffered a freak neck/shoulder injury while on tour as a featured guest with Amendola Vs. Blades.

In May, Scott Amendola and Wil Blades of Amendola Vs. Blades launched a GoFundMe campaign for the saxophonist alongside a letter explaining the unusual situation he was currently facing. “While on tour in April,” they wrote on the campaign page, “Skerik woke up in the morning with a seemingly normal tweak in his shoulder and neck. It quickly escalated into a much worse situation and after a gig that night, he could barely move. It’s a strange injury that after seeing medical doctors, acupuncturists, chiropractors, rolfers, massage therapists, there is still no clear answer as to what is going on.”

The campaign went on to garner more than 1,300 individual donations from the music community and beyond and raised nearly $100,000 to help the ailing musician stay afloat while he was physically unable to work.

At the time the GoFundMe was launched, Skerik had been unable to perform for six weeks. He was forced to pull out of his annual trip to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, where he was supposed to take part in a number of special performances including Live For Live Music‘s Warship My Organs and The Funk Sessions shows. He later had to cancel scheduled record release shows for his Sound Cipher project with Tim “Herb” Alexander (Primus) and Timm Mason as well as an upcoming residency at Seattle, WA’s Earshot Jazz.

In the months since, the summer 2023 Frog Brigade reunion tour came and went without a Skerik appearance. As Les Claypool explained in a social media post in mid-May, “The mighty ‘horn-honking’ Skerik has sustained a shoulder injury which is keeping him away from his Brigade duties for the time being. It is a mighty blow to the Brigade but, like good frog troopers, we are forging on with all dispatch. It is our hope that Lt. Skirackington, as he is known amongst the troops, will be back in the ranks and armed with his horn soon.”

Skerik remained relatively quiet throughout the summer as he continued his recovery process, but in the last few weeks, he has slowly begun his return to the stage. He played live for the first time since the injury in late July when he joined in with John Bush in Austin, TX during an emotional memorial for Brad Houser, the bassist/multi-instrumentalist who played alongside both Skerik and Bush in Critters Buggin. On August 25th, he made his first appearance back in his home base of Seattle, WA when he joined Marco Benevento at Tractor Tavern during a set supporting Brazilian rockers Os Mutantes. This past Sunday, during Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival, Skerik jumped in for a song with one of his longtime outfits, local funk-soul supergroup True Loves.

Marco Benevento w/ Skerik – Tractor Tavern – Seattle, WA – 8/25/23

[Video: Max Berde]

Skerik seemed cautiously optimistic about his return to action during a brief exchange with Live For Live Music on Tuesday morning. “I’m feeling much better getting stronger and out of pain, but still trying to build stamina,” he said of the rehabilitation process for his neck and shoulder. “Doing a lot of extra physical therapy, Pilates, swimming, etc. It’s a whole program.”

While his gradual return to gigging has understandably bred some anxiousness for the saxophonist, recent events in his own life and the music world at large have given him renewed perspective on his situation. “With so many great musicians dying lately,” he said, “I’m super thankful to not be dying and recovering from my mysterious injury that no one knows what it is… So many people have helped me get better, my fiancé Christa Wells, physical therapist Brian Feng, doctors, nurses. Joe Russo and Anders Osborne gave me their personal stories that were incredible and really inspiring, especially the books they recommended, namely the Dr. John Sarno books. I highly recommend them to anyone experiencing chronic pain. Meditation has also been helpful. … It’s a long road, but a really positive one that has taught me a lot, ultimately I’m very thankful for this experience.”

With his recovery progressing, he has his sights set on reuniting with Les Claypool and the rest of the Frog Brigade when the band returns to the road for its Hunt for Green October 2023 fall tour. When the tour was announced, the band did not indicate whether Skerik would be involved. “I’m trying to get ready for Les Claypool tour in October,” Skerik confirmed on Tuesday. “Rehearsals start October 7!! I’ll f—in be there!!! I hope it works out!! Yikes!!”

“I feel like I’m starting over and it’s been an amazing gift,” he added, “and also all this recovery would not be possible without the amazing, generous support from everyone who contributed to the GoFundMe. It has been life-changing. I plan on repaying everyone with every note I play in the future! See you all out on Claypool tour, it will be an emotional reunion for me!!”

Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade is due to kick off its Hunt for Green October fall tour on Wednesday, October 11th in Oakland, CA. For a complete list of upcoming Frog Brigade dates, head here.