Dec 12, 2013
Jimmy Amadie, the celebrated Philadelphia pianist and educator known for his contributions in improvisational jazz theory, passed away on December 10, 2013 in Philadelphia, PA. He was 76. His death comes after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007. I had the great pleasure to profile him in Podcast 230 in 2011.
Amadie was known not only for his supreme musicality, but also for his unrelenting fighting spirit. As a rising jazz pianist in the late 1950s, Amadie toured with the Woody Herman Band, accompanied Mel Torme, and played with some of jazz's greatest musicians including Coleman Hawkins, Red Rodney, and Charlie Ventura (taking over piano duties from Dave McKenna). He led the house band at the Red Hill Inn in New Jersey, and briefly at the Copacabana in New York. But just years into what promised to be an exciting career as a leading jazz pianist, his performing career ended. Hours and hours of playing and practice - Amadie recalled spending 70 to 80 hours a week at the piano - took its toll on his hands.
He developed a devastating tendonitis condition, which caused him great pain when he would play. Refusing to quit, Amadie immersed himself in teaching and jazz theory, and went on to become one of the country's leading jazz educators, writing two highly influential books on jazz theory, Harmonic Foundation for Jazz and Popular Music (1981) and Jazz Improv: How To Play It and Teach It (1990).
44 years after the last time he played in public, Amadie prepared himself to do what was once a shattered and forgotten dream, to play live again in concert. On October 14, 2011, in the Grand Hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Jimmy Amadie Trio performed a spectacular evening of music. "That was one of the happiest days of my life," Amadie said of the performance, "it was like a rebirth." The concert was released as an album the following August, and was broadcast on WHYY, Philadelphia's public television station. A 30-minute documentary on Amadie produced by Villanova University, Get Me a Fight, was released shortly after.