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Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, best known and perhaps best remembered as composer of the huge R&B smash, “Night Train,” was also an underrated swing–based player out of the Gene Ammons/Lockjaw Davis/Sonny Stitt school whose ample talents are showcased on the quintet date Black Forrest, recorded in 1959 with the same cast (and a couple of the same songs) that appeared on an earlier Delmark release, All the Gin Is Gone (Delmark 404). As it turns out, the tunes that comprise Black Forrest were recorded at the same session in December ’59. What’s most important to the listener is that the sentiments are the same, which means good old–fashioned swinging from the get–go. If I’m not mistaken (and I frequently am), this may have been one of the first recording dates for the then–young guitarist Grant Green (it wasn’t until two years later that he was in New York and recording under his own name for Blue Note). Green was already an accomplished player, as were Mabern, Ramey and Jones, and they brighten this Forrest with luxuriant and colorful foliage. As for Jimmy, he plays like someone who has just learned he’s won the lottery, ripping off a series of fast–moving solos that fairly crackle with unharnessed energy and exuberance while caressing the ballads with unremitting warmth and tenderness. Recording quality is about average, I’d guess, for ’59. Drums and bass are somewhat camouflaged, Mabern’s piano clanky, but Green (who is showcased on “But Beautiful”) and Forrest come through loud and clear. Even with such memorable standards as “These Foolish Things” (two takes), “You Go to My Head,” “What’s New?” and “But Beautiful” on the menu, Forrest’s almost impromptu head arrangements (“Black Forrest,” “Dog It,” “Sunkenfoal” and — resurfacing from the other session — “All the Gin Is Gone”) stand out like searchlights in a fog. In spite of its rather abbreviated playing time (44:49), Black Forrest is easily recommended, as almost every moment is rewarding.
Black Forrest; Dog It; These Foolish Things; Sunkenfoal; You Go to My Head; Black Forrest; What
Jimmy Forrest, tenor saxophone; Harold Mabern, piano; Grant Green, guitar; Gene Ramey, bass; Elvin Jones, drums.