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Pianist, composer, and arranger Joel Forrester one
of the most prolific composers to emerge from
New Yorks Downtown scene and, according to
The Paris Free Voice the worlds finest
improvisational accompanist to silent films. Composer of more than 1200 tunes, Forrester co-led the
critically acclaimed Microscopic Septet with Phillip Johnston and has played as either leader or
member of Private Life, The Illustrious Others, and
People Like Us, Forrester has released albums on
Ride Symbol, Koch Jazz, and Koch International. Forrester is perhaps most widely known for
composing the theme song for National Public Radios Fresh Air with Terry Gross (recorded by the
Microscopic Septet), which has been played and heard on American radio more often than any other
jazz composition in the last 28 years. Forrester actively performs in both New York and Paris; he has
played in Paris at the Louvre, the American Center,
the Forum des Images and the Musée dOrsay and
in New York at the Film Forum, the Brooklyn Museum,
and the Anthology Film Archives.
Born in Pittsburgh, Forrester, upon moving to New York City as a young man, met Thelonious Monk,
who urged him to focus on music that hadnt been written yet.
The Paris Free Voice relates Forresters unique tutelage under the guidance of Monk shortly before his death in 1982:
Fully dressed, Monk would lie on top of his bed, listening to Forresters playing in the adjoining
room. It was the most acute form of musical critic
ism Ive ever received, recalls Forrester. If he
didnt like what I was playing, hed just stretch his foot off the bed and kick the door shut!
Critics worldwide have extolled Forresters compositional and improvisational expertise. Heather Phares of All Music Guide describes his complex, often witty composition skills, while The New Yorker lauds Forrester as a most agreeably eclectic pianist, and among the most undervalued of jazz composers. The sheer pleasure he brings to a panoply of styles, and to the individual way he absorbs them all, denotes comfort rather than scholarly erudition. A review from All About Jazz perhaps best locates Forrester in the school of modern jazz:
Joel Forrester in an undiscovered national treasure. He is brilliant both as a pianist and as a composer. His music is intelligent, witty, and colorful as it looks into the jazz tradition and emerges as something individual and different. Millions have heard his great theme for the NPR show Fresh Air with Terry Gross... The music is identifiably Joelsever-fresh and smartly swinging.