Tag Archives: Jerry Gonzalez

Acclaimed Latin Jazz Trumpeter and Percussionist Jerry Gonzalez Dead at 69

Today, the Latin Jazz community is mourning the loss of trumpeter and conguero Jerry Gonzalez. Reports of a fire at his home in the Lavapiés district of Madrid summoned Spain’s National Police and paramedics where they discovered the musician. He was rushed to San Carlos Clinical Hospital where he died hours later. Mr. Gonzalez was 69.

Mr. Gonzalez was born into New York City’s Puerto Rican community on June 5, 1949. The rich world of music was already a staple in the Gonzalez house with Jerry Gonzalez, Sr. serving as a master of ceremonies and a lead singer along with musicians like Claudio Ferrer. His brother and bassist Andy Gonzalez would go on to follow his own musical career, often playing with his brother.

Taking up the trumpet and congas in junior high school, Mr. Gonzalez launched his musical career playing with local bands. After attending the New York College of Music and New York University, Mr. Gonzalez started playing with Lewellyn Matthews and in the 1970s played congas with Dizzy Gillespie and began merging African rhythms into jazz themes. He was a stalwart proponent of Latin music and an indefatigable explorer of the possibilities of Latin Jazz.

Mr. Gonzalez would go on to play with the likes of Jaco Pastorius, Tito Puente, Manny Oquendo and Eddie Palmieri. He found his groove by heading up The Fort Apache Band. Recordings like Ya Yo Me Cure, The River is Deep, Obatala, Pensativo, Calle 54, Rumba Buhaina and Jerry Gonzalez y El Comando de La Clave would soon stack up alongside appearances on Kip Hanrahan’s Coup de Tete, Tito Puente’s On Broadway, Carlos “Patato” Valdes’s Masterpiece, Steve Turre’s Viewpoints on Vibrations, Kirk Lightsey’s Kenny Kirkland, Bobby Hutcherson’s Acoustic Master II and Sonny Fortune’s A Better Understanding.

Jerry Gonzalez

Settling in Spain and lending his talents to flamenco, Mr. Gonzalez appeared with Diego “El Cigala” on Corren Tiempos de Alegria and Picasso en Mis Ojos and Paco de Lucia on Cositas Buenas, as well as collaborated with Javier Limon on La Tierra del Agua and Son de Limon and Andres Calamaro on Obras Incompletas and On the Rock.

Mr. Gonzalez earned film credits as well in Leon Ichaso’ s Crossover, Fernando Trueba’s Calle 54 and Leon Ichaso’s Pinero. In addition to The Fort Apache Band, Mr. Gonzalez also led the quartet El Comando de la Clave with Miguel Blanco.

The General Society of Authors of Spain (SGAE) issued a tweet mourning Mr. Gonzalez’s loss by calling him, “one of the pioneers of Latin Jazz and founder of the legendary group Fort Apache Band.”
No announcement has been made yet on funeral or memorial services

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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.”

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