Jimmy Forrest

James Robert Forrest Jr. (January 24, 1920 August 26, 1980) was an American jazz musician, who played tenor saxophone throughout his career.[1]

Jimmy Forrest
Birth nameJames Robert Forrest, Jr.
Born(1920-01-24)January 24, 1920
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedAugust 26, 1980(1980-08-26) (aged 60)
Grand Rapids, Michigan
GenresJazz, R&B, blues
InstrumentsTenor saxophone
Years active1935–1980
LabelsUnited, Prestige, Delmark
Associated actsDuke Ellington, Jay McShann, Andy Kirk

Forrest is known for his first solo recording of "Night Train". It reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart in March 1952, and stayed at the top for seven weeks. "Hey Mrs. Jones" (No. 3 R&B) and "Bolo Blues" were his other hits. All were made for United Records, which recorded Forrest between 1951 and 1953. He recorded frequently as both a sideman and a bandleader.


Born in St. Louis, Missouri, United States,[1] Forrest played alongside Fate Marable as a young man. He was with Jay McShann in 1940-42 and with Andy Kirk[2] from 1942 until 1948 when he joined Duke Ellington. During the early 1950s, Forrest led his own combos. He also played with Miles Davis, in early 1952 at The Barrel Club. After his solo career, he played in small combos with Harry "Sweets" Edison and Al Grey, as well as appearing with Count Basie.

Late in life Forrest married Betty Tardy, and settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he died in August 1980, aged 60, from heart failure.[3][1]

Other media

Forrest performs an extended version of "Night Train" with the Basie Orchestra in the 1979 film Last of the Blue Devils.

Forrest's version of "Night Train" was the theme song of a nightly rhythm and blues radio program in the Houston, Texas market. Also called Night Train, the program was hosted by William A. "Rascal" McCaskill, and was broadcast on KREL-AM from 1954 to 1957.

During the late 1970s Forrest appeared with an all-star lineup in New York including Howard McGhee on trumpet, John Hicks on piano, Major Holley on bass, and Charli Persip on drums.

In his 2000 book The Devil and Sonny Liston, author Nick Tosches noted that Forrest's music was a favorite of heavyweight boxer Sonny Liston, also from St.Louis, who would listen to "Night Train" and other Forrest music during training sessions and before fights.


As leader

As sideman

With Cat Anderson

  • Cat on a Hot Tin Horn (Mercury, 1958)

With Count Basie

  • In Europe (LRC, 1974)
  • Fun Time (Pablo, 1975)
  • Basie Big Band (Pablo, 1975)
  • I Told You So (Pablo, 1976)
  • Prime Time (Pablo, 1977)
  • Montreux '77 (Pablo, 1977)

With Miles Davis

  • Live at The Barrel (Prestige P-7858, 1952 [rel. 1983]; reissued on CD as Prestige PCD-24117 [rel. 1992] with a new title: Our Delight: Recorded Live At The Barrel, St. Louis)
  • Live at The Barrel, Volume Two (Prestige P-7860, 1952 [rel. 1984]; reissued on CD as Prestige PCD-24117 [rel. 1992] with a new title: Our Delight: Recorded Live At The Barrel, St. Louis)

With Harry "Sweets" Edison

With Bennie Green

  • Swings the Blues (Enrica, 1959)
  • Bennie Green (Time, 1960)
  • Hornful of Soul aka Cat Walk (Bethlehem, 1960)

With Grant Green

  • First Recordings CD Reissue - All the Gin is Gone / Black Forrest

With Al Grey

  • Grey's Mood (Disques Black And Blue 33.085, 1973–1975; reissue: Classic Jazz CJ-118 [rel. 1979]; reissued on CD as Black & Blue BB-912 [rel. 2000])
  • Struttin' and Shoutin' (Columbia FC-38505, 1976 [rel. 1983])
  • Travelers Lounge Live (Travelers TRV-3001, 1977)
  • Al Grey featuring Arnett Cobb (Disques Black And Blue 33.143, 1977; reissued on CD as Black & Blue BB-954 [rel. 2002] with a new title: Ain't That Funk For You)

With Jo Jones

With Jack McDuff

With Blue Mitchell

With Oliver Nelson

With Waymon Reed

With Betty Roché

With Joe Williams

  • Together (Roulette, 1961) – with Harry "Sweets" Edison
  • A Swingin' Night at Birdland (Roulette, 1962)


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