Artist Profiles: Jerry Gonzalez

Puerto Rican-American Multi-instrumentalist Jerry Gonzalez (congas/flugelhorn/trumpet) leads The Fort Apache Band, one of the most influential modern Afro-Caribbean Jazz Group of the past years. The group blends complex Latin rhythms with impeccable jazz improvisations.

Jerry Gonzalez’s first High profile professional engagement came at the age of 19 in 1971 with Dizzy Gillespie. Since then he has worked with masters from the jazz and Latin music fields such as: Kenny Dorham Tony Williams McCoy Tyner Jaco Pastorius Tito Puente Eddie Palmieri and Manny Oquendo y Libre. Jerry Gonzalez’ first session as a leader came in 198 with the critically acclaimed recording of Ya Yo Me Curé on the American Clave’ label. Following the success of Ya Yo Me Curé, The Fort Apache Band was formed and included such members as Kenny Kirkland, Sonny Fortune, Nicky Marrero, Papo Vazquez, the late Jorge Dalto and Milton Cardona. The ensemble’s first two albums were recorded live at European jazz festivals The River is Deep 1982 in Berlin: Obatala 1988 in Zurich.

In 1989 Fort Apache recorded the groundbreaking Rumba Para Monk as a quintet featuring: Jerry Gonzalez (trumpet flugelhorn congas), Andy Gonzalez (bass), Steve Berrios (drums), Larry Willis (piano) and Carter Jefferson (tenor saxophone). Rumba Para Monk was named album of the year by the French Academe du Jazz and resulted in the group being voted The Word Beat Group of the year in Downbeat’s 55th annual Readers Poll. It is this recording that has been cited as leading the resurgence in Afro-Caribbean Jazz in the past decade.

The group became a sextet with the addition of Joe Ford (alto & soprano saxophone) for 1991’s Earthdance (Sunnyside) and 1992’s Moliendo Cafe (Sunnyside). Following the death of Carter Jefferson, former Fort Apache member John Stubblefield returned to the band on tenor sax to record Crossroads (Milestone). The ensemble’s 1995 recording Pensativo (Milestone) also received a Grammy nomination. On the heals of the Grammy nominations for Crossroads and Pensativo the ensemble was awarded The Beyond Group of the Year by both Downbeat Magazines reader’s and critic’s polls in 1995 and 1996.

Firedance (Milestone) was recorded in February 1996 at Blues Alley in Washington DC and is the first live recording of the ensemble as a Sextet. Following this fiery recording the ensemble won the award of Best Jazz Group in Playboy Magazines Readers Poll for 1997. In 1998 the ensemble swept the Latin Jazz category at the New York Jazz Awards winning both the Industry and Journalist Polls. In 1999 the group swept the critics and readers polls for Beyond Group of The Year in Downbeat Magazine.

In 2000 Gonzalez moved from New York to Madrid. The Spanish capital, a cultural melting pot full of Flamenco musicians as well as Cuban Argentine Brazilian Equatorial Guinean Sudanese and many other expatriates welcomed the Newyorican musician with open arms and he quickly joined the bustling Flamenco and jazz scene.

In 2001 Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band were prominently featured in Fernando Trueba’s film on Latin Jazz Calle 54 (Miramax). This film received critical acclaim throughout the world and was followed by a series of concerts promoting the film including an engagement at The Beacon Theatre in New York City. The Soundtrack Calle 54 – Music From The Miramax Motion Picture is available on Blue Note Records.

The collaboration with Fernando Trueba also resulted in the production of a new CD Jerry Gonzalez y Los Pirates Del Flamenco featuring Jerry Gonzalez along with a Gypsy Flamenco group that includes the esteemed Flamenco singer “El Cigala.”

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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