Philadelphia icon Jimmy Amadie returns to the spotlight with a new project called “Something Special” on Aug. 16, 2011, and he will make his first public performance since 1967 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art at 5:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14.
Amadie, 74, has battled many struggles over the years, but he is happy to share his love of music with his fans.
“This is the best time of my life,” Amadie said in a news release. “I’m 74 years old and I’m getting better every day.”
Amadie’s story has been recounted often since his miraculous return to the piano bench in the mid-1990s, but it bears repeating. The North Philadelphia native was a promising young pianist in the 1950s, accompanying the likes of Mel Torme, Woody Herman and Red Rodney, when his performing career was brought to an abrupt halt by severe tendonitis in both hands. Playing the piano suddenly became sheer agony, and Amadie was reduced to improvising only in his head for the next 35 years.
He managed to maintain an influential presence on jazz through those decades thanks to his own teaching (students included Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Di Martino and famed TV composer Edd Kalehoff) and the publication of two highly-regarded instructional volumes: Harmonic Foundation for Jazz and Popular Music and Jazz Improv: How To Play It and Teach It. His own belated recording debut finally arrived in 1995, thanks to a series of surgeries and his own indomitable fighting spirit.
Just as his luck seemed to be improving he was faced with a further setback. Following the 2007 recording of The Philadelphia Story, he was diagnosed with lung cancer; having reached the summit of one mountain, he suddenly found himself at the base of another.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get another chance to play,” Amadie said. “I decided to give it my best shot and play without holding back. I’m glad I did. I can’t tell you what I learned.”