The Warren Zevon song "Piano Fighter" is not about Jimmy Amadie, but it could be. Not so much for the verses, though I can't resist quoting one: "Mom and Papa bought a Chickering, everyday I'd sit and play that thing / I practiced hard, it was more than a whim / I played with grim determination, Jim."
No, it's the Zevon song title which fits Amadie (that's Ama-day to you) so aptly. The Philadelphia jazz man was a boxer before he was Mel Torme's sideman in the '60s, back before acute tendinitis kept him from playing at all for years, and he's employed his pugilistic instincts in battling his own body in undying effort to keep doing the thing that he loves the most.
Amadie had recorded several albums in recent years, including the new Something Special, and he's an influential jazz educator. But not for 44 years has he played a full-length concert, which is what he'll be doing on Friday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in the Great Stair Hall, just inside the door from where that famous fictional Philadelphia pugilist jumped up and down to psyche himself up to face Apollo Creed.
This week, as he sat for an interview in his Bala Cynwyd home, Amadie applied one of the boxing metaphors he always keeps at his disposal to explain the difference between practicing or recording in the studio and dealing with the pain that will come with playing two one-hour sets at the Art Museum. "It's like having a fight," he says. "Throwing a punch is one thing. Landing a punch and getting hit back: that's a whole other thing."
My full interview with Amadie is in the Thursday Inquirer and here. You can listen to Something Special, and buy it, at Amadie's web site here. Below, watch the video shot by Ed Hille, who also took the picture here, of Amadie being interviewed in his Bala Cynwyd living room and playing Jimmy Van Heusen's "Here's That Rainy Day."