The Jimmy Amadie Trio: Kindred Spirits

No one ever promised life would be fair, but c’mon…Jimmy Amadie keeps getting knocked down after the bell has been sounded. Being an ex-boxer, and a pianist, Philadelphia-born Amadie knows full well he has the right to sing the blues. His career as a keyboardist was interrupted for thirty years by extreme tendonitis in both hands. He was nearly sixty before making his recording debut, and just before he began this one-his seventh album-he learned he had lung cancer. (If that sounds like a made-for-TV script, a documentary is in the works by the writer of the liner notes, Shaun Brady.)

Regarding the quality of the album, it’s an excellent, straight-ahead swinger that not only shows how well Amadie copes with adversity, but features three saxophone greats: Joe Lovano, Lee Konitz and Lew Tabackin in a hard-driving cross-section of Amadie originals plus standards. Highlights among the reed players: Lovano’s blistering tempo on on “Just Friends” over Amadie’s percussive comping; the beauty of his tenor on the ironically-titled Amadie ballad, “Life is Worth Living,” a gorgeous line with interesting changes and unexpected modulations; and Lovano’s bop flurries on Monk’s “Well You Needn’t,” encouraged by the provocative walking of bassist Tony Merino and the challenging “conversation” Joe holds with drummer Bill Goodwin. Tabackin’s flute doubling is put to good use as he and Amadie explore Jimmy’s pert, unison bop line, “Blues for Thee ‘DV’.” It features more first-rate playing from Merino.

Two sides of altoist Konitz are displayed with Amadie’s “Lee Bossa/Lee Swing,” but only one side of “his” bassist, Steve Gilmore — the quiet side. Don’t know if it’s the miking, but he and Konitz are heard only twice: on the Bossa/Swing track and the way-up “I Want To Be Happy,” providing a marked contrast to the assertive Merino. Little doubt that Jimmy Amadie asserts himself; he boasts a clean, crisp sound on his solos and comping, thanks to a swinging, fluid right hand and tons of taste. Just check out the contrapuntal tag to “Happy” as Amadie and Konitz seem reluctant to call it quits even when they’ve reached a fading infinity. Who’s that yelling? I dunno.

Originally Published