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Jimmy Amadie

From the “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” performed at a rare, uptempo pace to the theme of “Night and Day” that takes a midphrase octave jump, Jimmy Amadie’s In a Trio Setting (TPR) has a natural flow that doesn’t hint at the circumstances under which it was recorded.

The pianist took five years to record In a Trio Setting, a tribute to Frank Sinatra, but that lengthy process had nothing to do with perfectionism or interference from other projects. For 35 years Amadie has suffered from tendonitis, which has gotten so bad he can now play only for 15 minutes every six months before the pain requires him stop. Under those circumstances, he’d be lucky to secure two complete takes a year, and working with a rhythm section seemed virtually impossible. But the late baritone saxophonist Nick Brignola suggested Amadie try something virtually unheard of for jazz recordings: Knowing the pianist had a excellent sense of time, Brignola convinced him to record solo, leaving spaces for bass and drums that would be overdubbed later.

Between 1997 and 2002 Amadie recorded five songs that were associated with Sinatra throughout the singer’s career along with three originals. Bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin-both members of Phil Woods’ quartet and quintet-recorded all their precise parts in one marathon recording session, including parts for Amadie’s own beautiful ballad “Gone but not Forgotten.” But as things were wrapping up, Amadie had an idea: “I said, ‘Look fellas, I want to play with the rhythm section because I haven’t played with a rhythm section in 45 years. Here’s the rule: Once we start playing we can’t stop, because I cannot do anything a second time.”

After completing a version of “Here’s that Rainy Day” that shifts from rubato to gentle swing, Amadie rested for 20 minutes, whipped up an arrangement of “Sentimental” and got another live take. Both had the qualities of a well-oiled trio. “It changed my life,” Amadie says of the session. “I will never record solo again. I’m going to do a live album in the studio.”

The pianist-whose career includes stints with Mel Tormé, Woody Herman and Red Rodney during the 1950s and ’60s-says despite being to play only sporadically, he feels like he’s playing at the top of his game. Amadie plans to utilize the same process that led to the recording of his new CD’s two live tracks: booking three hours of studio time every six months and working on one song at a time. If it takes him a long time to get the finished product, so be it. “They didn’t cut anything out from my heart and they didn’t cut out anything from my head,” Amadie says. “As long as they don’t do that, nothing can stop me from playing.”

Originally Published