Band to Play Free Concert for
of Their Closest Friends
Frank Roberts, Staff Writer
THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT, SECTION:
Copyright, Landmark Communications,
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
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
"We look at ourselves as jazz musicians,''
said James Ford. "We play anything, but it's all jazz
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
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
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.''