Jerry González

Jerry Gonzalez, born June 5, 1949 and died October 1, 2018, was an American trumpeter, percussionist, and bandleader of Puerto Rican descent. He played a significant role in the development Latin jazz during the latter part of the 20th century, along with his brother Andy Gonzalez. Both played with Eddie Palmieri in the 1970s and Manny Oquendo’s Conjunto Libre. From 1980 to 2018, they directed The Fort Apache Band. From 2000 to 2018, Jerry Gonzalez lived in Madrid where he was a member of El Comando de la Clave and Los Piratas del Flamenco. After a fire at his Madrid home, he suffered a heart attack in October 2018. Jerry Gonzalez was born on 158th Street in Manhattan in 1949. He moved to the Edenwald Houses, Eastchester, in the Bronx when he was 4. His musical background was strong, and he was exposed to Latin, Afro-Cuban, and jazz music. This helped him develop his musical taste and shaped his career as an artist. Jerry Gonzalez, Sr. was Jerry Gonzalez’s father and was a master at ceremonies and lead singer in bands during the Palladium era. He sang with Claudio Ferrer and other musicians. He began playing the trumpet and congas in junior high school and joined local bands. Gonzalez began his formal education at New York College of Music, and New York University. His professional career began playing with Lewellyn Matthewews at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. He began playing congas with Dizzy Gilespie in 1970. Gillespie supported and encouraged Gonzalez to blend African rhythms into jazz elements while not losing the essence of both. Gonzalez joined Eddie Palmieri’s group the next year. He then moved on to Conjunto Libre, which was led by Manny Oquendo, timbalero, and Jerry’s brother, guitarist Andy Gonzalez. Andy and his brother were the founding members of Conjunto Anabacoa, and later of Grupo Folklorico Experimental Nuevayorquino. With whom he recorded two albums: Concepts of Unity (1974), and Lo Dice Todo (75). Frankie Rodriguez and Andy Gonzalez were the band’s members. He was a member of Tito Puente’s group (1984-1999), McCoy Tyner (1990-1990), and Jaco Pastorius (1984-1987). In 1979, Gonzalez released his first album as a leader: Yo yo me cure. He soon formed The Fort Apache Band, his most well-known band, with his brother Andy, Kenny Kirkland and Nicky Fortune. Also included were Nicky Marrero and Milton Cardona. Papo Vazquez, Jorge Dalto, and his brother Andy. The first two albums of the ensemble were recorded live at European jazz festivals: Obatala 1988 in Zurich and The River is Deep 1982 in Berlin. They followed these with their hit album Rumba Para Monk in 1988 which earned them the Jazz Record of the year award from the French Academie du Jazz. This record was the one that first caught the attention of jazz fans and is still regarded as a great project. The 15-member band was then reduced to a sextet consisting of Larry Willis (piano), Andy Gonzalez, Steve Berrios (drums), Carter Jefferson (saxophone), and Joe Ford (saxophone). Gonzalez and the group released Earthdance (Sunnyside 1990) and Moliendo Cafe (19 Sunnyside 1991). These albums once again showed the band’s ability play Latin-inspired jazz with genuine sensitivity, virtuosity. Carter Jefferson was killed in the Moliendo Cafe. John Stubblefield took his place. The group released Crossroads in 1994, and Pensativo 1995. Each of these albums earned them Grammy nominations. The Beyond Group of the year was awarded to the group by Down Beat Magazine readers’ and critics’ polls in 1995, 1996. Gonzalez and the group continued to create on their 1996 album Fire Dance. Recorded live at Blues Alley and featuring original compositions as well as interpretations of Thelonious Monk’s Let’s Call This, and Ugly Beauty songs, it featured Gonzalez and his group. They were honored with a number of awards including Best Jazz Group in the Playboy Magazines Readers Poll 1997. They won both the Industry Poll and the Journalist Poll in 1998, when they won the Latin Jazz category at New York Jazz Awards. The group won big in 1999’s Beyond Group of the Year polls by readers and critics. Jerry Gonzalez

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