Jazz Band to Play Free Concert for
   200 of Their Closest Friends

   by Frank Roberts, Staff Writer

   Copyright, Landmark Communications, Inc.

FORTE HAS plenty of slogans to go around: "Smithfield's well-crafted jazz band,'' "Music no less than the best,'' and their favorite, "Musical strength for the mind, body and soul.''

They play mostly contemporary jazz, covering such artists as The Rippingtons, David Sanborn and Grover Washington. Forte also enjoys digging into such standards as Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train'' and the theme from "M*A*S*H.''

"We look at ourselves as jazz musicians,'' said James Ford. "We play anything, but it's all jazz flavored.''

To find out what he means, visit their headquarters in Welcome Alley at 8 p.m. Friday for a concert, "Friends of Forte - A Casual Night of Jazz.'' It will be held in a room that seats about 200. There is no charge.

"A lot of musicians are in it for the money, and it becomes a job. For us, this is our way to unwind,'' said Daniel Quackenbush. "When we get paid, we put our money together to buy equipment and other items. That allows us to do a lot of charity gigs.''

The most recent was in behalf of Mary Wells, a former Isle of Wight County extension agent, now working for a realty company. The concert helped her efforts to catch up with the bills for her cancer treatment.

While they enjoy helping others, Forte would not turn its nose up at success. "We'd like to get on the Hootie and the Blowfish level,'' Ford said. "Our parents worked hard. They'd like us to do well.'' Their manager, Max Holloman, has similar sentiments. "I'd like nothing more than to see these guys make it. Immediate goals are to go into a studio,'' he said.

To do that, the musicians are trying to create enough originals to make a CD. "We take turns writing,'' Quackenbush said. "It's a cooperative venture.'' Whether involved with originals or covers there is a musical understanding that keeps Forte going. "We know what each musician will do at any given time,'' Ford said. "We put down the basic shell. It's glued together, enough, so we know where we'll be going.''

The essence of successful jazz is theme, improvisation, theme. "We keep `em guessing,'' Ford said. "You won't find another group like us.''

It is a happy group. "They have such a good time they usually don't want to take a break to eat,'' said Holloman, a former disc jockey whose ambition was to manage a band, one reason being "people are getting off the deejay circuit. They like to hear live music.''

Forte usually plays in the Hampton Roads area, the bulk of their engagements being private parties "where,'' Holloman said, "you make your money.''

Some of the musicians still play in churches, where most of them began. Brian Pinner was once a member of Amos Davis Angelic Choraleers, going on the road with them and performing on their CD, "God Never Fails.'' He is the leader of the group, and its saxophonist. The 29-year-old Carrollton native, a control room operator at the Surry Nuclear Power Station, majored in music at Norfolk State University, where he played jazz. All of the band members have nicknames. He is "B.''

Here is a look at the rest of Forte:
James Ford, the keyboardist, is a 34-year-old Smithfield native. A training specialist at the Army Training Support Center in Fort Eustis, he started playing hymns and classical music on the piano. Ford, who has a degree in mass media arts from Hampton University, was associate editor of "Army Training Magazine.'' His nickname is James Pete.

Daniel Quackenbush plays bass. The 40-year-old Patterson, N.J., native, a mechanic at the nuclear power plant, learned to play while stationed at Fort Eustis. His nickname, as expected, is Quack.

Jeff Bradby plays lead guitar. He is a 36-year-old Smithfield native who, like Pinner, is a control room operator at the power plant. He has a degree in accounting from Norfolk State. His nickname is L.A.

Mike Warren, the auxiliary percussionist, is a 39-year-old Chesapeake native who works at Newport News Shipbuilding. His nickname is - no surprise - Mike.

Darryl Rawlings is the band's 32-year-old drummer. A Surry native, with a music media degree from Norfolk State, he works for Edwards Hams. Deedee is his nickname.

Several of the band members are Smithfield High School graduates who have stayed close, musically and as friends. The fathers of Pinner and Ford were also high school friends who sang together in a sextet. Now, their sons are part of Forte.

The musicians chose that band name for three reasons. "It sounded classy - reflected the type of music we play. Also, the word means something that is done well. And, it's a musical term meaning loud,'' Pinner said.

"We're not loud,'' Ford said, "but we can get there.''

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