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Jimmy Amadie: Savoring Every Note

Jack Bowers By

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Should someone decide to write a sequel to John F. Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage, and need suitable nominees for inclusion, here's mine. To the best of my knowledge, no pianist — in fact, no musician — has endured more hardship or overcome larger obstacles in the pursuit of aesthetic expression than Jimmy Amadie. I am moved almost to tears whenever I hear this courageous gentleman play, knowing how much he has suffered to do so. For those who are unfamiliar with Amadie's background, it consists largely of a lifetime of intense pain brought on by various ailments that began in the '50s when the young pianist, then a rising star, practiced so unremittingly and played so often that he developed severe tendinitis, which led to further nerve damage, many surgeries and hands that were all but useless to one who made his living with them.

As a result, Amadie was unable to play the piano for more than three decades, and to this day must wrap his hands securely in bandages during the day and encase them in steel braces at night. But within Amadie's heart always burned the desire to play, and a couple of years ago he decided to fight through the pain and record an album. The result was Always with Me, a stunning achievement by any measure and a remarkable testament to his indomitable spirit. Amadie's second album, Savoring Every Note — and what an appropriate title that is — includes on its jacket the words "recorded at TP Recording Studios 1996-97." That's more than simply another necessary footnote. Even now, Amadie is unable to play for more than five or six minutes at a time, on a piano whose keys are specially weighted to cushion his touch.

Afterward, those tender hands must often be submerged in ice water for six or seven hours, after which he is unable to play again for several weeks or even months. Hit a wrong note under those conditions and you pay an enormous price. Fortunately, even after those many years when all he could do was teach piano technique and write textbooks about it, Amadie always hits the right notes, and does it so cleanly and with such obvious solicitude, warmth and grace that the listener never shares the pain, only the pleasure. And what pleasures there are, as Amadie deftly interprets such enduring standards as "Just Friends," "Like Someone in Love," "Summertime," "Tenderly" and "If I Were a Bell," and offers four of his own charming compositions, "You're My Love of Life," "Swinging Prez," "The Gospel As I Know It" and "Are You There" before completing the tasteful program with Kenny Dorham's memorable "Blue Bossa." The hands, even under stress, are remarkably nimble and responsive, the point of view bold and invigorating. Although Savoring Every Note embodies roughly 52 minutes of music, it is an earnest love letter to you, the listener, that Jimmy Amadie spent nearly two years composing.


Track Listing: Just Friends; You're My Love of Life; Swinging Prez; Like Someone in Love; Summertime; The Gospel As I Know It; Tenderly; If I Were a Bell; You Are There; Blue Bossa (51:55)

Personnel: Jimmy Amadie, solo piano

Year Released: 1998


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