Andy J. Forest Band
Photo by Cristina Arrigoni
Harmonica & Frattoir player, Singer
and Songwriter born in 1955, Andy has been playing harmonica
and singing professionally since 1977.
He has recorded 7 LPs, 11 cds and two 45s. These
recordings feature mostly Forest's original songs. The 2007
released "Real Stories:
of Love Labor and Other Man Made Catastrophes" (on
Slang Records) won "The Best of The
Beat" Award for Best
Blues Cd of 2007 in New Orleans, in 2010 he released NOtown
Story: The Triumph of Turmoil and in 2012 he made Other rooms, that adds another chapter to his portfolio, which he’s quietly built into one of the most impressive songwriting catalogs in the city and was nominated "Best Blues Album" to Best of the Beat Awards 2012.
This year he released
Word Shadows & Ghost Notes his twentieth album, but it’s his first solo record, and its 22 songs take you through his life story. “I really think this is my best work,” says Forest. “Playing the guitar allows me to approach writing my songs from a different perspective without having to think about what my guitarist will play. I’ve also been able to rearrange some old songs to be able to play them by myself.”
One of the most remarkable things about Forest’s career is that he’s adhered faithfully to a blues format yet found ways to grow musically within it. Most blues players describe a very small and very emotionally intense circle and stay within that over the course of their career, but Forest is continually pushing his blues frameworks into funk, traditional R&B and swing directions to accommodate his extensive lyrical wordplay. Forest has matured as both a vocalist and harp player over the years, scaling back some of his wilder eccentricities as he plays with the melodic content of his songs.
harmonica lessons came from hearing live performances by SonnyTerry, Walter Horton, Charlie
Musselwhite, and Rod Piazza in the Los Angeles area as a teenager.
The legendary George "Harmonica" Smith gave the young man pointers in the parking lot of the Ash
Grove in Hollywood. But he really started playing in New
Orleans in the early 70's, jamming with James
Booker, Earl King, John Mooney, Antoine Dominoe, Billy Gregory (of Professor
Longhair's band) and other local musicians who went on to
form the Radiators and the Subdudes.
He began his professional
career at age 22 demonstrating a unique and personal style
from the beginning.
Live performances, mostly in festivals gave
him the opportunity to open up for B.
B. King, Albert King, Albert Collins, Canned Heat, Magic
Slim, Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy & Jr. Wells, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown,
J. Geils & Magic Dick, Terrance Simieon, Otis Grand,
The Blind Boys of Alabama, Johnny Copeland, Roy Rogers,
John Hammond, Melvin Taylor, Duke Robillard and Johnny
On some of these occasions Andy was invited to play
with his heroes. In 1989 B. B. King let him play with him
during a jam session with Bobby "Blue" Bland,
Joan Baez (!) and Luther Allison at the Montreux
That same summer B. B. invited Forest to join him in a
jam with Jeff Healy on stage at the Pistoia Blues Festival
in Italy. Champion Jack Dupree asked Andy and his band
to back him up for an entire set. He also played a set
with the Otis Rush Band which was televised on national
Italian TV (RAI).
After living in Europe for
ten years he returned to his home New Orleans in 1991 where
he plays in clubs yet frequently goes on tour in Europe and
played on stage with other illustrious artists like Taj
Mahal, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Matt Murphy, James Cotton, Walter "Wolfman" Washington,
Jimmy Johnson, Sugar Blue, Willy DeVille, Louis Meyers,
Johnny Heartsman, Bernard Allison, The Memphis Horns,
Johnny Shines and John "Juke" Logan.
He has played at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage
Festival a half dozen times since 1983, King
Biscuit Festival, Trois Rivieres and the Ottawa Blues
Festival several times, The Montreux
Jazz Festival in 1989, Cognac Blues
Passions, Antwerpe Parkblues Festival, Amsterdam Blues
Festival, Tamines, Beermem Blues Festival, More Blues
Festival, Gulf Shores Shrimp Festival, Lokerse Feesten,
Pistoia, San Remo, Nantes-Rendezvous dans l'Erdre, Lugano
Blues to Bop '94, '96 & 2000, Sherbrooke
Blues Festival, Windsor International Festival, Montremblant and
many others in France, Italy and Canada.
A Prolific song writer, Forest
has penned over 100 tunes, mostly blues
and New Orleans style.
He has written scores of songs,
one novel Letter From Hell and paints “outside” art,
(see pics) mostly of blues and jazz singers. Some of them are
hanging around New Orleans in La Belle Gallerie, 309 Chartres
St. and @ Louisiana Music Factory-210 Decatur St.
After the popular and criticle success of Sunday
Rhumba (2001) and Deep Down Under(in
the Bywater) (2003) recorded for Appaloosa Record and
produced by Anders Osborne he featured Real
with his italian band, NOtown
Story: The Triumph of Turmoil (2010) and the new cd Word Shadows & Ghost Notes (2015).
“Bartender Friend,” the opening track on Forest’s great new album, Word Shadows & Ghost Notes, catalogs the trip down Piety Street and Chartres to the Spotted Cat, where Forest works on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“At the rusty rainbow by the vinyl shop I take a right with a rolling stop,” Forest sings, referring to the Piety Street Bridge over the railroad tracks to Crescent Park, right across from Euclid Records. He goes on to evoke the comfortable feeling of playing a late afternoon show at the Spotted Cat with sunshine flooding the stage. “When I go to work I feel at home. There’s always someone there, someone I know … In the afternoon when the sun is low. Late in the day it’s the early show.”
The low key, backporch blues aesthetic Forest nurtures at his Spotted Cat gigs is a far cry from the style he was known for back in the 1990s, when he led a high-energy band. His theme song was “I Got Crazy Legs,” and his performances were frenzied raveups during which Forest shouted, stomped, whooped on the harmonica, did his crazy leg dance, threw his frattoir down on the dance floor and stage dived onto it, then stood on his head while playing the harmonica for an encore.
“I wanted to do something that would excite the audience,” he says, “but it got to the point where people were coming up to me and saying ‘Hey, are you gonna stand on your head and play harmonica tonight?”
Now people come to hear Forest’s songs. His Spotted Cat shows are perfectly drawn exercises in solo blues, as Forest accompanies himself on harmonica, dobro and an electric guitar fashioned from a bargeboard plank of wood salvaged from part of his nineteenth century house during a renovation. Forest’s smoky baritone is well suited to the detailed stories about life in New Orleans contained in his writing.
Andy's harmonica playing with the Washboard
Chaz Blues Trio on the sound track
for the Werner Herzog film "The
Bad Lieutenant" starring
Nicolas Cage and Val Kilmer. On tour in Europe the Andy J Forest
Band members are Heggy Vezzano Guitar, Luca Tonani Bass
and Pablo Leoni drums. In New Orleans: Jack Cole guitar, David
Hyde bass and Allyn Robinson on drums. In Canada Andy plays
with Tony D. and most recently the multi award winning band
Talking about him
Blues Revue called
his "wordplay Berryesque" and rated
the CD "Bluesness as Usual" an "UN-usually
Of the book Letter from hell "Sounds and reads like
good blues to me" - "agile imagination".
Off Beat magazine columnist John
Swenson recently wrote of a live performance "..causing
such mayhem that Forest pushes the party limits until
he's body surfing across the dance floor on his frattoir".
In a review of Forest's CD "Blue Orleans" stated "The
songs present an uncompromising look at the life of a traveling musician... Also
Forest proves his versatility by tackling themes like insanity and growing old.
His understated delivery has a poignancy which comes from the heart". "One
of the best harp players in New Orleans"
Michael Cote of Blues Revue wrote
of Sunday Rhumba: "...eclectic
sesibility" - "featuring fine
harp and barbed lyrics.." "...the best
example of Forest's storytelling, a sample of the
hard-edged writing found in his novel Letter From
Gambit Weekly in New Orleans
hailed Forest as "One of the scene's
more experienced and vital practitioners".
Christina Dittenger called Andy's
songs "bluesy musings on everyday occurances
from the frustration of losing one shoe to the state
OBScene, Ottawa's blues periodical
printed, "Andy performs harp magic...every
number was truly entertaining... his original tune "Motel
Blue Orleans" is the epitome of the blues".
Living Blues gave him a "solid
harp player" vote and of his songwriting
reported, "...from soulful instrumentals to
Blues Access "a fine series
of intriguing albums...original compositions, lusty
singing and virtuouso harp". "...hot harmonica" "...
distinctly out of the ordinary".
Andy J.FOREST (USA) - Harp,
Heggy VEZZANO (I) - Guitars
Luca TONANI (I) - Bass
Pablo LEONI (I) - Drums, Percussions
Read the Andy J. Forest's articles and reviews
featuring Lenny McDaniel, Lil' Queenie, Marc Adams,
The Mighty Popo, Herman Ernest III & George Porter
Appaloosa (AP 128-2)
LETTER FROM HELL -
the book (1998)
With this novel, Forest was short listed for the Pirates
Alley Faulkner House awards 1998. The book was first
released in February 1999 in English and Italian on Pendragon
and the prestigious Gallimard Editions is publishing "Letter
From Hell" in French in March of 2002
LETTER FROM HELL -
the CD (1998)
Featuring Mason Ruffner, Davell Crawford, Jackie Tolbert,
Bruce Daigrepont, Johnny Vidacovich & Marc Adams
Appaloosa (AP 145-2)
AT THE RAINBOW (1999)
Live release to Rainbow, Ottawa, Canada
3rd and 4th april 1998,
produce by Tony D. and Jerry Dugger
"...eclectic sesibility" - "featuring
fine harp and barbed lyrics.." "...the best
example of Forest's storytelling, a sample of the hard-edged
writing found in his novel Letter From Hell."
Michael Cote of Blues Revue
DOWN UNDER IN THE BYWATER (2003)
Recorded for Appaloosa Records,
in this CD Anders also co-wrote several tunes. He sang
some backup vocals, played guitar on a couple of songs,
bass on another and even drums on one track. So this
was a very hands on production. This "live" in
the studio recording goes back to an older sound but
the slant of the songs, stylistically and lyrically
branch out to fresh territory.
NOTOWN STORY: The Triumph
of Turmoil (2010)
OTHER ROOMS (2012)
WORD SHADOWS & GHOST NOTES (2015)