Just after the new year began, Jesse Jordan found himself doing something he’s done countless times before: hustling up and down the stairs which lead to the entrance of his Jones Street condo, hauling a heavy combination of drums and cymbals.
It’s a late-night routine the longtime, veteran working drummer has repeated often over the years, and one can easily see how this it might be tempting to cease paying attention to this drudgery. Surely something as mundane as moving heavy musical equipment in the cold, pre-dawn air for the umpteenth time could be done on autopilot, right?
What’s the worst that could happen?
Well, how about a dreadful accident that can have an instantaneous and deleterious affect on your health and livelihood?
“I was being foolish,” Jordan recalled a few weeks back, several days after a minor error in judgement nearly cost him his life.
“I was going down the steps in a hurry to lock up my car, and I was leaping a bit. You know, taking the steps two at once.
“My right knee had been giving me some problems for a while,” explained the avid jogger. “I guess I came down on it the wrong way, because I felt it weaken and go out from under me. The next thing I knew, I was at the bottom of the steps.”
In the blink of an eye, Jordan had tumbled headlong down a flight of stairs, banging himself up mightily in the process. He soon found himself alone, injured and more than a little confused.
Now, almost six weeks after the incident which could easily have left him either dead or paralyzed, Jordan seems incredulous and more than a bit fuzzy when recalling the immediate aftermath.
“I think I kinda went into shock. I ain’t real sure how I got back up the stairs. I wasn’t thinkin’ straight, man! I actually figured I’d go to bed and figure out what to do in the morning, but I didn’t lay there too long before I knew something was very wrong, and that I’d better call an ambulance. I could only assume my leg was broken or worse, and sure enough...”
To say that Jesse had broken a bone would be a bit of an understatement. The lower half of his right leg (which he uses to play the bass drum) suffered several severe fractures, and his right knee was damaged beyond repair.
In the end, he’d spend many days in the hospital, and undergo multiple surgeries, including a complete knee replacement. The multiple pieces of metal now holding his tibia together will likely cause him aggravation at airports for years to come.
Luckily for Jordan, he’s still rather foggy on the moment of impact itself.
“I’ll bet it hurt,” he says with a chuckle.
What he’s not foggy on is the hard road now in front of him. He’s been recuperating at the ground-floor home of his sister C.J. Booker, catching up on DVDs and helping her grade the occasional homework assignment (she’s an English teacher at Windsor Forest High School). But, the downtime is driving him stir crazy.
He’ll be unable to return to his day job as a salesman and percussion instructor at Annie’s Guitars & Drums, or to even sit behind a drum set for many months. Which, for a famously active musician —who’s known for holding down steady gigs in many different bands at once— is perhaps his biggest source of frustration.
“It’s a real exercise in patience, man,” he offers with a sigh of resignation.
There’s another dastardly by-product of this lack of mobility: a lack of finances. He faces that most unwelcome of situations: massive medical bills, and no immediate source of income.
It was that unenviable predicament which spurred local independent show promoters Tiny Team Concerts (an organization in which I play a role) to hastily organize a large-scale, high-profile benefit concert solely for the purpose of generating awareness of Jordan’s predicament and —hopefully— a significant amount of cash to help see him through these lean times.
Over the past few decades, Jordan has been a key, visible member of so many different successful and/or well-respected local acts (such as The Easy Walkers, The Night Flight All-Stars, The John Brannen Band and The Veraflames) that finding performing artists he’d either played with at some point, or who felt a strong personal bond with him as a friend or mentor, proved to be no problem whatsoever. To a one, all who were invited to take part enthusiastically agreed to donate their time and talent for the aid of their compatriot.
In fact, given the ease with which he has moved between rock, country, blues, reggae and other genres, and his long-standing reputation as one of the most laid back and friendly local musicians on the scene, the show could not accommodate all the great players who’d have gladly taken part. However, the final lineup is an impressive bill of local rock and blues.
It includes: original acts Argyle, Superhorse, Greg Williams, Eric Culberson, Phantom Wingo, Splitfinger, The Jeff Beasley Band and Hot Pink Interior, as well as cover bands The Fundamentals (featuring members of The Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love) and The 8-Tracks (with their special guest, noted session guitarist Jack Sherman, whose resumé includes stints with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Hiatt and Bob Dylan, among others).
The show is structured like an old-fashioned revue with all artists using shared equipment and playing abbreviated sets. Local citizen advocate “Rabbi” Tom Kohler and local musician “Rev.” Fred Hodge, both longtime friends of Jordan, will serve as MCs, introducing the artists, and giving away over $1,000 in donated prizes.
It’s also worth noting that —much like the wide variety of players joining forces, an impressive lineup of co-sponsors have put notions of competition aside and pitched in to help cover all the show’s expenses, so that —unlike most benefits of this type— a full 100% of all proceeds and donations can be given directly to Jordan.
Says Bruce Chapman of Portman’s Music, “I’m really sorry I won’t be able to attend the benefit. This will be a special night, and though I’ll be in another state, I’ll be thinking of the folks involved and the efforts it took to make this happen. This is how a music scene excels — in looking after their own. It’s a great tradition and I’m proud our company was able to chip in a little on this one.”
Jordan —who’s known for his unassuming demeanor— admits that he’s deeply touched by the efforts being made on his behalf, but acknowledges there’s a part of him that finds it a little hard to accept.
“I am a very private person, so it’s a little awkward to need people to help you do simple things,” he muses.
“You get used to being self-sufficient and livin’ by yourself. You want to do for others. To be on the receiving end feels strange somehow. Then again, that’s the kind of thing that helps you stay positive and get better as quickly as you can!”
Songwriter Greg Williams, who’s enlisted Jordan in the past for both studio and live work says he knows why everyone has jumped at the chance to help the injured musician out in this time of need.
“He’s simply one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with, if not the best in the whole town. He always brought perfect timing and a lot of taste to every band I ever saw him in. Plus, he’s always been so generous with his talent and his advice. He was a great professional player long before I was, and encouraged me from the start.
“Jesse’s always so cool and doesn’t ask for anything. The fact that all these guys are doing this when they could be out making money for themselves says an awful lot. Since it’s all in his honor, I’m sure it’ll be a pretty emotional night for everyone, especially him. But hey, that’s what music is supposed to be all about: helping people, making them feel better.”
“Plus,” says Kohler, “It’s a chance to see the forty-year history of rock and roll in Savannah in one night. I don’t think both generations of local rock musicians, the fifty-year-olds and the twenty-five-year-olds, have come together in this way before. The fact that it’s so big and has materialized so quickly is a tribute to Jesse in itself. He’s the bridge between the two camps.”
True or not, for his part, Jordan isn’t getting caught up in all the rhetoric.
“The financial assistance is gonna be very welcome, but the important part for me is the spiritual aspect of this. Just knowing I have friends. I feel there’s a pretty good bond between folks in our local music community, and it’d be great if this was a way to somehow enhance and build on that. I’m just gonna try and have fun at the show and appreciate that fact.
“I feel like you don’t choose music. Music chooses you. My life has always revolved around that, for better or worse! (Laughs) I’m looking very forward to being able to carry my shit up and down the stairs, load it in my car, and be as active as I was before this happened.”
Tiny Team Concerts presents An All-Star Rock & Roll Benefit For Jesse Jordan, 8 pm Friday at American Legion Post #135 (1108 Bull St.). $15 tickets to this four-hour, 21+ show are limited to less than 250 and can be charged securely online at www.tinyteamconcerts.info, or bought with cash at Primary Art Supply, Marigold Beauty Concepts, Silly Mad CDs, Le Chai galerie du vin, Annie’s Guitars & Drums, Angel’s BBQ, and (if any remain) at the door. This price includes a raffle ticket for over $1,000 of prizes to be given away during the show. 100% of proceeds go straight to Jesse. The show is co-sponsored by Connect Savannah, Annie’s Guitars & Drums, The Sons of The American Legion Squadron 135, Murmur Magazine and Portman’s Music.