REVIEW: The Jimmy Amadie Trio – The Philadelphia Story: The Gospel As We Know It

It goes without saying that it’s a tragedy when an artist loses his ability to freely exercise his talent, but it’s kind of inspirational to see one who finds ways around his difficulties. Legendary jazz pianist Jimmy Amadie has struggled for years with severe tendonitis but his new album, The Jimmy Amadie Trio – The Philadelphia Story – The Gospel As We Know It, shows his ability to persevere.

For the last couple of decades or more, he’s spent a lot of time teaching music at Berklee and Villanova, and writing musical reference books. But he didn’t stop performing or recording, instead learning to pace himself and record his many albums in a series of brief bursts of creativity.

For this tribute to his native city he did just that, organizing short recording sessions that not only included the other members of his trio, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin, but also three guest stars who hail from Philly. Respected veteran Benny Golson brings his sax aboard, as does Lew Tabackin (who also plays wicked flute), and they’re joined by trumpet/flugelhorn master Randy Brecker.

Part of Jimmy’s success includes the ability to plan ahead and carefully organize the actual recording sessions, and of course the album itself. For this effort, he decided to devote one jazz standard and three of his own compositions to each of the guest artists, for a total of twelve tracks. The result is an evenly-balanced and diversified mix of jazz, with plenty of chances for the stars to shine.

Of course, I’m always a sucker for standards so my favorites were probably an upbeat arrangement of Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” that showcased Brecker’s horn, and especially “No Greater Love.” It features Tabackin’s impeccable tenor sax and was in my opinion the best track on the album.

Other enjoyable listens include Golson’s breathy sax turns on the whimsical “Marching With Benny G,” and again on the title track, which really shows his improvisational skills. Another delight was Tabackin’s flute on “Samba For Lew T,” an irresistable Latin tune, as was “Bossa/Swing,” which provided another opportunity for the musicians to swing Brazilian style, this time anchored by Brecker’s muted trumpet.

But it’s not just about the soloists. Running through the entire collection of cuts is a strong and solid core provided by the trio, and of course Jimmy himself. He appears at just the right moments to show his own stuff while at other times blending in, fully supporting his guests.

Solid jazz from a group of pros, commemorating the music of the city they love. Well worth having in any music collection.

1. LT’S Express
2. Bossa/Swing
3. Michael’s Lament
4. The Gospel as We Know It
5. Randy’s Shufflin Blues
6. Marching with Benny G
7. Samba for Lew T
8. Alone Together
9. Lew’s Mood
10. The Man I Love
11. Warm and Gentle Ben
12. No Greater Love
(Samples available at Jimmy’s website.)

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