The biggest achievement of Jimmy Amadie’s A Salute To Sinatra
is that it was ever recorded at all. Amadie has received some publicity in recent years, including a cover article for Jazz Education Journal,
that documents his struggles with acute tendonitis. The debilitating handicap might have kept other musicians from playing again. But not Amadie. Instead, he paces himself--with five years’
worth of pacing--to record a CD that required six months of therapy before Amadie could play a ten-minute track. That extrapolates to a five-year time frame to record a 58-minute CD. And the story doesn’t end there.
Known for his work in the 1950’s and 1960’s with Mel Tormé and Red Rodney, Amadie decided against all odds, and with the encouragement of his departed friend Nick Brignola, to record a trio
album. That entailed Amadie recording on solo piano as he was able. Then when all of the tracks were recorded, he retained bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin to perform their parts in a single session in 2002. The result is a technical achievement, as well as a testament to the human spirit, as Amadie overcame discouragement and pain--and endured two more operations--before his album became a reality.
Ever an admirer of Frank Sinatra’s use of rock-steady time throughout his career, Amadie decided to record a series of tunes associated with Sinatra, as well as three originals that recall both Sinatra and Brignola. Closest to Amadie’s heart is "Going Home," which becomes a remembrance of the two men who inspired him. At first a solo introduction sets the tone of the tune, steady and meditative, before drums and bass come in with uplift and slight swing.
As assured and as steady with his sense of time as the singer he admired, Amadie crafts each tune with precise articulation and occasional chord substitutions, as on "Here’s That Rainy Day." The uniqueness of the CD is such that only a pianist with an equivalent sense of rhythm could improvise as if here were playing spontaneously with a trio. In addition, Amadie also was able to imagine the rests and spaces within his performances that Gilmore and Goodwin would fill in later. With a fairly simple vamp to open "Love For Sale," for example, Gilmore fills in the rests at the end of the phrase as if it were spontaneously played. Or as Gilmore changes keys throughout "Body And Soul," Gilmore follows seamlessly, as does Goodwin once Amadie accelerates the tempo.
Amadie’s appropriate choice of Frank Sinatra for his tribute tells as much about Amadie’s style as it does about his interest in singers. Not only does Jimmy Amadie adopt a vocalistic quality in his piano playing, his improvisations almost singable, but also he too locks into an unshakable sense of swing that defined Sinatra as well.