Title: My Funny Valentine
Artist: The Jimmy Amadie Trio
Album: Live at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
I'm going to break from my normal routine tonight and feature a performance by Philadelphia-based jazz pianist Jimmy Amadie. I learned today that Jimmy died last Tuesday after a six-year battle with lung cancer.
I met Amadie six years ago when I enrolled in a one-week Jazz Harmony class at Villanova University. After the first day, I considered dropping the class after enduring the recitation of his entire life story in what seemed like real time. I was there to learn about Jazz Harmony and this guy wouldn't shut up! After the second day, I felt better. By the end of the third day, I knew this was going to be one of the greatest academic experiences of my life. The guy turned out to be brilliant.
The story he told on day one was heart-breaking and inspiring to anyone willing to listen (not me at the time). Amadie was on the road to jazz stardom in the 1950s, touring with Woody Herman, Mel Tormé, and Coleman Hawkins among others. But just a few years into his career, his tendency to spend as many as 70 or 80 hours per week at the piano resulted in severe tendinitis that ended his career as a performer. His personal loss was the gain of the music education community as Amadie immersed himself into jazz theory and began teaching summer sessions at the Berklee School of Music and the Villanova summer sessions for music educators.
After a series of surgeries, Amadie was eventually able to play the piano again but only for a few minutes at a time before experiencing a tremendous amount of pain. He supplemented his lack of physical playing time with mental practice! Through this approach, he was able to record several albums between 1994 and 2011, many of which featured saxophone great Phil Woods. But he never played in public again until October 14, 2011, when he took the stage at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the first time in over 44 years. In an interview from the documentary Get Me a Fight, Amadie admitted that he would pay a painful price for this hour-long performance but he didn't know how much longer he would live and he didn't want to die without having played once more in front of an audience. I regret not getting to that performance but I'm happy it was captured in this fine recording by an obscure jazz legend. Rest in peace, Jimmy.