photo by Diana Priazevska

Singer's Jazz Series

Article by Ori Dagan, Wholenote Magazine Sept 2012

In the press: Wholenote MagazineMulti-talented Julie McGregor is an exquisite painter who, about a decade ago, turned her focus to singing jazz. More recently, McGregor has begun producing The Singer’s Jazz Series, which features, alongside herself, a variety of Torontonian talent on vocals, with the venerable Norman Amadio on piano. Ironically, it’s the accompanist who’s at the heart of this singer’s series.

“I was inspired by pianist Norman Amadio, one of Canada’s greatest jazz talents and sadly it seems, most under-appreciated,” says McGregor. “I wanted everyone to hear Norm play. At 84, he still plays great...he loves accompanying and really is one of the most giving, humble and kind musicians I have ever met.”

Indeed, Amadio’s modesty belies his legendary status as jazz pianist, piano teacher, music coach, composer, arranger, session player, band leader and accompanist, dating back to the 1940s. At 17, the precociously gifted Norm left his hometown of Timmins to study with Boris Berlin at the Royal Conservatory, and soon thereafter became influential in starting the bebop scene in Toronto. Amadio became one of the country’s most in-demand players, headlining at New York’s Birdland in 1956 opposite Duke Ellington, and collaborating with far too many jazz giants to mention in this wee column.

At the “September’s Song” installment of The Singer’s Jazz Series, Amadio, along with the wondrous Neil Swainson on bass, will provide the ultimate accompaniment for featured vocalists Sophia Perlman, Vincent Wolfe and Julie McGregor, and jazz poet Chris Hercules. Reservations are recommended for this event, taking place at Hugh’s Room on Sunday, September 16.


photo by Mike Anderchuck

Julie McGregor and Norm Amadio


Norm Amadio, Toronto jazz's constant companion

The Toronto Star Published on Saturday September 15, 2012

Julie McGregor, organizer for The Singer's Jazz Series has a confession to make. The Sept. 16 Hugh's Room concert is really about the piano player.

“It should be called, ‘Norm and The Singers,’ ” says McGregor, meaning Norm Amadio, unquestionably the finest accompanist in Canadian jazz history. At 84 and a bit hobbled these days — “my balance isn’t any good” — he still gets the first call from even the newest generation of vocalists such as the silky Sophia Perlman who’s sharing the stage Sunday with McGregor and Vincent Wolfe, the Michael Bublé-like crooner from Toronto.

Amadio was an aggressive bebop player along the lines of Bud Powell when he first arrived on the Toronto scene in the 40s. A precocious teen musical whiz from Timmins, he soon enough learned to keep his cool when others were losing theirs in the city's turbulent club scene.

Reliability got him work. Unrivaled musicality gave him stature and clout. Jazz stars arriving in town - Carmen McRae, Miles Davis, Joe Williams or Jimmy Rushing wanted him. Or even needed him, as the veteran American singer Maxine Sullivan once told me.

'Amadio's secret? Never outplay the star', he says.

“He’s such a great musician that he can make it seem it’s not about him,” says McGregor, 53, who remembers catching Amadio at George’s Spaghetti House, the peerless Dundas St. E. jazz bistro and Italian restaurant in the ’70s. “He always considers the singer.”

"Yet he always leads the way," says Perlman, 27, who was only 4 years old when she heard Amadio playing at a block party near where she was growing up in Kensington Market. “I like that. I like someone who plays with me, not for me.â€

Today’s young crop of jazz singers, in Toronto and internationally, stands up well compared to “all those singers who came before.” says Amadio. “Take that Vincent Wolfe — he’s going to be really good.”

Amadio’s friends say he likes to think he invented jazz in the city. Certainly modern jazz had its roots in his many appearances at the House of Hambourg in the ’50s and his seemingly endless number of lounge gigs around town.

Studio work with Moe Koffman and others meant steady work and countless recordings, and CBC TV appearances made him a minor celebrity. There was the ubiquitous Norm Amadio — never, ever “Norman” — a cool presence looming over the keyboard, a fixed noncommittal smile on his face as his meaty, muscular hands stitched together seamless backgrounds.

“Yet he never plays the same thing twice,” says McGregor. “He never plays the same intro, never does the same ending. He solos are always different. He changes rhythms and phrasing. So he makes me pay attention as a singer. He’s always been inventing on the spot.”

The Town Tavern on Yonge was were Amadio carved out his reputation in the 15 years he led the house band. The Town in its rough-and-tumble ’60s heyday made the El Mocambo seem later on like a Sunday school picnic. Hard-core barflies and old rounders still best remember the Town as being the place where Maxie Bluestein, big time bookie, got whacked by Johnny Papalia, an enforcer guy out of Hamilton.

Amadio remembers the earlier night when Bluestein got smacked around outside the club, merely as a warning.

“There was also a fight inside that night with a guy with a blackjack, a guy whose name I forget,” Amadio laughs. “You’ve heard of the Man of La Mancha? I’m the Man from Dementia. Anyway, I was getting chewed out by a star whose name I also forget because we had a new drummer he didn’t like. People are coming in. And it’s getting louder and louder. So I fired myself. I never did know who hired me, anyway.”

The Singer’s Jazz Series is at Hugh’s Room Sun. Sept. 16 with Perlman, Wolfe, McGregor and Chris Hercules. Amadio is on piano and Neil Swainson on bass.

Freelance writer for The Toronto Star - Peter Goddard


"Caught jazz vocalist Julie McGregor’s act on St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto."

I have listened to Julie perform over the last decade and her voice has matured and mellowed into a very real and personal sound. Her phrasing in her up-tempo version of ‘Speak Low’ was impeccable. Standards like ‘End of a Love Affair’ and ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ had distinctive styling. And, for a steamy, humid Friday night, Dave’s was packed and most people stayed for the entire evening. Julie, hat on backwards and perched on a high stool, ended the night with a memorable rendition of ‘Good-Bye Pork Pie Hat’ by Charlie Mingus. The crowd loved it.

Julie McGregor is definitely a jazz vocalist to watch.

Freelance writer Gayle Winship

"I've had the fortunate opportunity to hear Julie sing with the great piano accompaniment of Norm Amadio.  How wonderful to sit back and hear old and new jazz classics rendered with such feeling.  I'd recommend anyone who appreciates good music, good jazz in a comfortable environment, to check them out."
Jerry Silverberg, The Cafe Society.

“ The entertainment was outstanding (great talent!) Will definitely attend again!! ”

Beth, Member of the Jazz Meet Up Toronto Group


Pianist, Norm Amadio Norm Amadio Trio 

our esteemed piano player was at the center of The Singer's Jazz Series until Dec 2013 where we featured great local jazz singers and spoken word artists. He is not only adored and revered by many musicians who knew him as a great Canadian Jazz pianist but also as a genorous, kind person with a sly sense of humour. Due to recent health issues, at 86 he decided to retire. His last gig was at Pauper's Pub playing piano for us singers during a comedy show called Hellz-a-beboppin' that feat. comedian and jazz sax player, Darryl Orr. Interesting to note, Norm was the first Canadian to headline Birdland in New York City in1956. Amadio worked with many of the greatest musicians and singers from the jazz era. Later, Norm became the musical director for the CBC on various Television shows for over a span of 40 years. There he accompanied some the most famous musical stars of our time, such as Judy Garland, Carmen McCrae to Dinah Washington. He worked on TV specials with many comedians like Bob Hope and The Smothers Brothers and baked many stars at the Royal York and The Imperial Room.

The Toronto Star "Reliability got him work. Unrivaled musicality gave him stature and clout. Jazz stars arriving in town - Carmen McRae, Miles Davis, Joe Williams or Jimmy Rushing - wanted him. Or even needed him, as the veteran American singer Maxine Sullivan once told me."

Peter Goddard (freelance journalist).

To find out more about Norm Amadio go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Amadio

This video was from one of our shows and features Norm on the piano playing "Please send me someone to love".


Live recording with Norm Amadio

"Christmas Time Is Here"

Album Notes "Christmas Time Is Here" is a popular Christmas song written by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi for the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, one of the very first animated Christmas specials produced for network TV. Recorded by many artists; this nostalgic live-recording is sung by Julie McGregor and accompanied by her close friend and pianist for six years, the notable Norm Amadio. Julie's version of this Christmas favorite, transports you to a snug, warm cozy place where there are snowflakes falling outside a frosted window. Inside, there is steamy, hot chocolate and a toasty fire burning brightly in an old stone hearth.

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