When was the last time you picked up an album titled Let’s Groove and you really did (groove, that is)? When was the last time you liked an album by a fellow who looks a bit like a high school superintendent circa 1969-1976 (especially if you lived in or near the US Midwest)? OK, how ‘bout the last time you picked up a "tribute" disc and it wasn’t a convenient marketing hook (especially if it was a tribute to someone who’s an interpreter - as in, let’s interpret the songs an interpreter interpreted)?
This platter, in some ways, fills all those dubious criteria and rises (way) above them. This disc is a solid, swinging gas (as old-school hipsters used to say) all the way through (except for the ballads, but they’re very pretty indeed and you get to catch your breath). Mr. Amadie may look like a fellow that taught you algebra in the 60s or 70s - square enough to make Peter Marshall looks like Lord Buckley or Hugh Hefner - but appearances can be deceiving. Amadie is a lord of lyrical swing, fleet-of-finger, doesn’t overplay, light touch - he doesn’t "sound like" many pianists, but for sake of convenience, he reminds me of Hank Jones, Marian McPartland, and a wee bit of Red Garland. The album "salutes" Mel Tormé, but - sacre bleu! - none of the tunes are by Mel T! In fact, almost all are by Jimmy the A! Now, that’s a novel way to pay "tribute" to a musical figure/icon/pal/whatever! And the crew he plays with here - boy howdy! Phil Woods and his homies Steve Gilmore and Bill Goodwin! Woods sounds fabulous here - a wee bit cool-er in tone (in the sense of Konitz and Bud Shank) but still fiery, inventive, madly inspired. Maybe I’ve not been listening to the right discs, but I haven’t heard Woods sound this magnificent in years. (Note: Woods is also mucho fab on McPartland’s 85th Birthday set on Concord, too.) And to top it off, the eight tunes mostly range between 5 and 8 minutes, so there’s no excess/water-treading/superfluous notes.
As this is on an indie label, you might have to go a bit out-of-your-way to obtain, but if you love straight-no-chaser mainstream bop albums that don’t sound like seven dozen other mainstream bop albums, it’ll be well worth it. If you see Jimmy A, be sure to thank him for being an American.