Norm Amadio | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Norm Amadio

Albert Norman Benedict Amadio, pianist (born 14 April 1928 in Timmins, ON; died 22 January 2020). Norm Amadio was a prominent figure in Toronto’s jazz scene for more than 60 years. Journalist Peter Goddard called him “unquestionably the finest accompanist in Canadian jazz history.” He was also a member of many studio orchestras and a music director for the CBC for many years. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Toronto Musicians’ Association in 2016.

Education and Early Career

Amadio studied piano for seven years with the Grey Nuns in Timmins and briefly in 1947 with Boris Berlin at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Playing jazz under the influence of bebop (Lennie Tristano, Bud Powell, and others), Amadio was a prominent figure in the late 1940s and early 1950s at the House of Hambourg in Toronto. He subsequently became one of the city's leading accompanists.

Career Highlights

After working in the early 1950s in the lounge groups of Jim Younger, Chicho Valle, and Jimmy Amaro, Amadio led the houseband (with the drummer Archie Alleyne and a succession of bassists) at the Town Tavern intermittently until the mid-1960s; he accompanied such US jazz artists as Roy Eldridge, Stan Getz, Bill Harris, Coleman Hawkins, Carmen McRae, Mel Tormé and Lester Young. He returned to jazz periodically through the 1970s and 1980s (e.g., at the club Bourbon Street with Chet Baker, Spanky Davis, Buddy Tate and others).

Amadio also led trios (usually with Bob Price, bass, and Alex Lazaroff, drums) at several Toronto lounges. He was the orchestra leader at the Imperial Room of the Royal York Hotel (1987–88). Concurrent to his club work, he was a member of many studio orchestras, music director for CBC TV’s Music Hop (1963–67) and for several CBC pop and country music specials. He was also the pianist and an occasional soloist on the syndicated TV series Nashville Swing (1977–81). His discography includes The Norman Amadio Trio (1963), with Alleyne and the bassist Bill Britto, and other records as accompanist to Tommy Ambrose, Moe Koffman and Phyllis Marshall.

Amadio played his final gig at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival in 2014 before retiring that year at the age of 86. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Toronto Musicians’ Association in 2016.