In a period of profound artistic expansion and change in jazz, with labels like ECM, Winter & Winter and Pirouet and countless self- produced recordings erasing and redrawing genre lines, is it even proper (or even necessary) to celebrate the time tested, the mainstream, the old fashioned purveyors of the music? Is there a need for one more traditional piano trio recording featuring a collection of standards stepped on more than times than black tar in Nuevo Larado? For an art form capturing less than five percent of the music market, jazz seems to sprout an inordinately high number of artists believing they have something to say and saying it.
Judging by what is available, it is easy to play good
jazz and orders-of-magnitude harder to play exceptional
jazz. What is the difference? It is experience and gracefulness. The former is readily understood, the latter, not so much. In gracefulness there exists a profound humility cloaking a greater talent. That describes well, Philadelphia-native pianist Jimmy Amadie, who, while not a nationally known name, is one revered in his home town, a city with no shortage of musical history.
Amadie began his professional career with trumpeter Red Rodney, saxophonist Charlie Ventura and singer Mel Torme in the late 1950s, having to abandon music in 1967 because of severe form of tendinitis in his hands. Turning his attention to music education, Amadie made his mark locally through giving private lessons and authoring books in the meantime. After several surgeries and much practice, Amadie made his debut recording in 1995, just short of his sixtieth birthday. Several recordings followed, building Amadie's public reputation.
Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008, Amadie responded by releasing two more recordings, a titanic feat considering his health challenges. For all of this, Amadie had not performed live for more than 50 years...at least until he appeared at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 14, 2011, the result being considered here. Liner notes- writer Neil Tesser termed this recording Amadie's "Last Will And Testament," not wishing the 77 year-old pianist away but only acknowledging the reality that Live At The Philadelphia Museum of Art
will more than likely be his final recording, one made during a window of good health.
Realizing the time was right, a trio with bassist Tony Marino and drummer Bill Goodwin was assembled and a concert planned . Together, the three present a near perfect performance of twelve standards that very well may define jazz. Sliced from deep in the center of bebop, these songs provided a vehicle of inspiration that defined the genre for the better part of its life. Beneath the stress of age and illness, Amadie plays with a grace and aplomb that can only be achieved late, when time is of the essence. Amadie never considered himself a virtuoso and has often stated that he plays as he does because of hard work and practice that likely led to his debilitating tendinitis.
But that is not in evidence as Amadie solos seamlessly on "There Is No Greater Love" and "On Green Dolphin Street." He elevates cocktail jazz to concert stage art. His comping is sparse and always consonant and appropriate. "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise" is a treat introduced by bassist Marino with a brisk tempo set up by Amadie. Amadie solos with confidence, playing not unlike Red Garland, using block chords to frame meat-and-potato melodies. "Summertime" and "My Funny Valentine," vastly overplayed ballads to the point of cliche, breathe deep here, as if they know the importance of their being performed by this gifted man. It is fortunate that we still have performers who can remind us to thoroughly from where we have come, thereby justifying the evolution beyond.