If I keep harping on this, I'm going to get a reputation as a curmudgeon. But the continuing practice of slapping together several unrelated tunes and, in an attempt to get noticed, wrapping around them a weakly coherent concept which, as often as not, invokes a famous and well-loved jazz personality, has got to stop. I will, however, forgive Jimmy Amadie for doing whatever he can to promote his new album, Live at Red Rock Studio: A Tribute to Tony Bennett , since it features some very fine and immensely enjoyable jazz and is the product of much pain, hard work, and patience.
Amadie was in high demand as a pianist in the '50s and '60s, working with Woody Herman, Coleman Hawkins, and Mel Torme, among others. He was subsequently afflicted with terrible tendonitis that required him to stop playing altogether and turn primarily to a successful career in jazz education, which has yielded two books and a long-standing program at Villanova University. It is only in the past ten years that, thanks to surgeries and physical therapy, Amadie was able to play again, but even now his output is limited to one take for each tune and maybe a couple of brief sessions a month.
With a back-story like that, one might expect Amadie's playing to be tentative or hesitant. Far from it: Backed by a strong trio including Steve Gilmore on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums, and joined by the indefatigable Phil Woods on half the tunes, Amadie lays down some inspired solos and swinging comping. His lines are admirable, clear and well-thought out, harmonically interesting and rhythmically strong. Equally impressive is his writing; the three originals here have that instantly-memorable and familiar feel of the standards with which they are paired.
Phil Woods is the wild card here, and his limber bop phrasing adds a lot of excitement to the record. Thankfully, he is given plenty of room to stretch out and explore these tunes, to particularly joyous effect in Amadie's punning "Phil the Woods with Music."
The concept may be tenuous (the standards here have all been sung by Bennett, but who hasn't done "Stella by Starlight" or "Come Rain or Come Shine"?!?), but the jazz isn't. Jimmy Amadie's hard-won music is well worth repeated listening, and Woods fans will enjoy hearing him in this uninhibited setting.
The Thought of Losing You; Baby Blue; You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To; Stella By Starlight; This
Can't Be Love; The Very Thought of You; Come Rain or Come Shine; Phil the Woods With Music
Jimmy Amadie, piano; Steve Gilmore, bass; Bill Goodwin, drums; Phil Woods, alto sax
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