The last time we caught up with Jimmy Amadie, the Philadelphia-area pianist had just completed his second solo recording, "Savoring Every Note," in 1998.
Amadie now is out with "In a Trio Setting," the first recording he has ever made with an ensemble over his lengthy but sporadic career -- and it literally took him five years to make this strong-willed release on his own TP Recordings label.
Amadie has tendonitis so severe he usually wears compression braces on his hands, has rarely been heard in public since the 1960s, and has undergone multiple surgeries.
He plays through burning pain in his hands, and can play no more than 10 minutes at a time. Recording one tune every six months, it took him five years to make this recording. The result is the respected music educator's take on standards associated with Frank Sinatra.
Amadie made the suggestion some six years ago to saxophonist Nick Brignola, who died last year. Brignola understood the challenges posed by Amadie's condition but suggested a trio recording was possible if Amadie recorded in phases. "Your time is good enough that you could record by yourself and then have the guys put their tracks down," Brignola told his friend.
Amadie got advance commitments to the project by alto saxophonist Phil Woods and two veteran rhythm section aces, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin, who both hail from northeastern Pennsylvania's nearby Delaware Water Gap.
"I said to the musicians: 'Look fellas, I don't know when I'm going to be able to do this, but when I get all the tunes finished, I'll give you a call,'" Amadie said. "Every six months I called them with an update. I recorded one tune every six months. And I kept calling these guys two or three times every year for five years. They probably thought I was crazy."
Amadie recorded his piano parts alone, and left spaces for Gilmore and Goodwin to add their rhythmic accompaniment, ensemble interaction and respective bass and drum solos -- after the fact.
With the piano sections of eight tracks done, Amadie called the pair and summoned them to Red Rock Studio last year. From 10 a.m. to after midnight they played under Amadie's supervision, as he kept his hands literally on ice.
The result was so fine Amadie couldn't resist an opportunity to play with the pair in real time. He knew he had a 10-minute window of opportunity and there could only be one take. Together, they played "Here's That Rainy Day." Much to everyone's surprise, Amadie felt up to playing a second tune "live." So after a 20-minute rest, he led the trio through a funky version of the Tommy Dorsey theme song, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You."
Those two unexpected live tracks are the first two tracks on the new CD. Most of the material is associated in some way with singer Frank Sinatra, though Amadie penned and performed three originals for the project. They are "Gone But Not Forgotten," "You're All We Want You to Be" and "Going Home." All three are dedicated jointly to the memory of Sinatra and Brignola.
Amadie has suffered from his debilitating hand condition for some 35 years. He was a first-call pianist on the jazz scene in the 1950s, backing Red Rodney, Charlie Ventura, Woody Herman and singer Mel Torme, among others.
He played so much and with such intensity, however, the crippling inflammation resulted. He couldn't touch the piano from 1960 to 1995 and could only play piano in his head for those 35 years.
Through it all, including years of multiple surgeries by the world's finest hand surgeons, he has persevered.
He has recorded when he can, and developed, promoted and taught harmonic concepts that have found a prominent presence in jazz education. Burning hands or not, Amadie can't keep within himself the music that fuels his creativity.
Information on his three recordings is available at jimmyamadie.com on the Internet.