ROY FORBES

Biography of a Jazz Singer

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Joseph and Irene Forbes were brought up in a rural area called Auchtembeddie in the parish of Manchester, Jamaica. In the early fifties after a short spell living in the capital (Kingston) they were invited by the British Government to work and start a new life in the UK. They settled in Birmingham.

Roy and TelmaOn the 11th of August 1955 they had a daughter whom they wished to name Thelma Delores. When they told the registrar that their daughter was to be called Thelma, in their typical Jamaican way they dropped the ‘H’. He promptly wrote it the way they pronounced it.

For years nobody noticed the miss-spelt name until she applied for her first passport. From then on every official document that bore her name had to be changed to Telma.

On the 14th of November 1958 they had a son whom they named Roy Joseph.
It became clear from very early on that Roy enjoyed singing.
He formed his first band at Tindal Street Junior School in Balsall Heath.
It was a quartet that performed the latest pop songs with guitars made from cardboard with wool for strings. The group were called The Trees because they performed on a wall in the corner of the playground with overhanging trees. They became quite popular the other children would rush into the playground to listen. They did a farewell gig in morning assembly before moving on to secondary school.

Music wasn’t a priority at secondary school only children whose parents could afford instruments could participate. After having become a member of an excellent local church choir, where for the first time he received classical voice training. Roy joined the school choir. Roy’s talent didn’t really shine in the school choir, but Saint Mary & Saint Ambrose Church in Edgbaston, Birmingham had discovered a star. Almost every Sunday morning mum (Irene Forbes) sat in a front pew very nearly bursting with pride.

It was at this time more than ever Roy really started to notice the music his Dad (Joseph Forbes) played. It was jazz, (such as Nat ‘King’ Cole, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald), country and western, (such as Jim Reeves), opera, (such as Mario Lanza) and Ska, a Jamaican-style fusion of jazz and blues, which later evolved into what we now call reggae.

Roy became completely immersed in the seventies reggae scene, falling under the spell of icons such as; Bob Marley, Alton Ellis, John Holt, Lee Perry, Gregory Isaacs, Jimmy Cliff, Augustus Pablo, Johnny Clarke, Jacob Miller, Burning Spear, Vivian Jackson and many others. Roy’s main influence in this genre was Dennis Brown.

At the same time with similar intensity, was his interest in soul from artists such as Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Al Green, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Sam & Dave to name but a few. Roy’s main influence in this genre was and still is Michael Jackson.

After leaving school and starting a job as an apprentice electrician Roy soon amassed a huge record collection and often volunteered his services as a DJ at parties and other occasions.           

Throughout, Roy’s obsession with music was punctuated with Jazz.
Although his main influence in this genre was Nat ‘King’ Cole,
his attention was specifically drawn to the jazz-funk bands of the late seventies and early eighties. Artists such as The Jazz Crusaders, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Jeff Lorber, Bob James, Spyro Gyra, David Sanborn, Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis, Earth Wind & Fire, Level 42, Cool and the Gang, Eric Gale, Grover Washington Jr, Roy Ayers, Richard Tee, Michael & Randy Brecker, Michael Franks, Quincy Jones and many others.

After singing at an early age and exploring his love of music through recordings for many years, it was the jam sessions in pubs and clubs in his local area of Birmingham, which made Roy realise that he wanted to perform.There were Reggae, Soul, Blues, and Jazz bands around at that time. Roy was very enthusiastic and would jam with any band that would let him.


Roy  with the Blue NotesOne night in 1986 at a jazz club called Accafess, he saw, heard and met renowned Jamaican saxophonist Andy Hamilton.

Andy Hamilton became Roy’s mentor. Roy became the main vocalist in Andy Hamilton’s band and appeared on Hamilton’s ‘Jamaica By Night’ album.
For over ten years Roy performed alongside artists such as: Larry Coryell, David Murray, Scott Hamilton, Benny Waters, Al Casey, Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, Jean Toussaint, Jason Rebello, Dudu Pukwana and Spike Robinson.

Roy also recorded live at ‘Jazz Café’, London and at The Stables Theatre, Wavendon for BBC Radio. He performed at numerous international Jazz festivals, including: Brecon Jazz Festival, Cork Jazz Festival, Greenwich Festival, Soho Jazz Festival, The Madia (Milan), St Lucia Jazz Festival and at countless other venues nationally and internationally including the legendary ‘Ronnie Scott's’ in London.

Andy Hamilton’s influence, guidance and encouragement launched Roy on the road to a professional career as a jazz vocalist.


In 1997, assisted by Chris Taylor - pianist, musical director, engineer, producer and close friend, Roy released his debut album "Going Home", launching his solo career with a set of classy standards. The critics and public alike received Roy’s debut enthusiastically.

"Infused with the warmth of his own personality" ~ Jazz UK 

"Cool swinging and very hip indeed" ~ The Birmingham Post

  "First Class" ~ Jazz Journal International

"In-your-face swing" ~ Musician

"Luxuriant" ~ What’s On

The Roy Forbes Quintet arrived featuring: Graham Dent - piano, Ian Hill - tenor saxophone, Mike Green - bass and Steve Street - drums.

The year 1999 revealed another Chris Taylor production Roy’s second album entitled ‘Telma’ (featuring Spike Robinson) dedicated to the memory of Roy’s late sister. It was after this album release and subsequent tour that Roy began to work with numerous local soul bands experiencing once again his love of the genre. The Roy Forbes Quintet, whilst retaining its cool jazz credentials, evolved into the ultimate wedding/party experience, playing cool jazz during dinner and/or soul and funk for dancing. As a result, the band acquired a huge reputation for quality and versatility.

2005 saw the release of “Last Orders”.