González, Jerry

Jerry Gonzalez was born in 1949 in the Bronx Borough of New York City. He grew up with Afro-Cuban and jazz music which left a deep impact on his musical appreciation and molding his future work as an artist. As a youth, Gonzalez would listen to his father’s jazz albums, incuding artists such Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.

While studying in junio high school, he began playing the trumpet and later the congas. Gonzalez completed his formal studies New York College of Music and New York University.

Legendary Latin artists such Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri were also important sources of musical inspiration. According to Gonzalez, “The spirit of mother Africa travelled to the Caribbean, South America, North America and ... our music is a reflection of our experience here in New York City and of our consciousness of the cultural roots”.

Known as a percussionist, Gonzalez began his professional career as a conga and trumpet player in 1970, performing his own brand of Latin jazz with the internationally famous, Dizzy Gillespie. With maestro Gillespie’s support and encouragement, Gonzalez was able to fuse the African based rhythms onto jazz elemets without compromising the essence of either. The next year, Gonzalez joined Eddie Palmieri’s band, “El Son” for a brief period before moving on to work with “Conjunto Libre”, the band led by great timbales artist, Manny Oquendo.

Inevitably, Gonzalez talent led him to form his own band. His initial was taken in the late 1970’s with a band he called “Ya Yo Me Cure” and released an album of the same name in 1979. No doubt, his real talent only came to the fore with his second band: “Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band” which included his brother Andy. The band’s first two albums were recorded live at European concerts. These were followed by their hit album, Rumba Para Monk in 1989, earning them recognition from the French Academie du Jazz with the “Jazz Record of the Year” award.

Gonzalez and the band subsequently released Moliendo Cafe in 1991. The album again demonstrated the band’s ability to play Latin inspired jazz with genuine sensitivity and virtuosity. They followed that effort with the release of Crossroads in 1994 and Pensativo in 1995, each of which earned them Grammy nominations. Gonzalez and company’s most recent release was the 1996 album: Fire Dance, recorded live and featuring re-interpretations of Thelonious Monk works: Let’s Call This and “Ugly Beauty”, as well as original compositions.

Gonzalez and the Forst Apache Band also won rave reviews for their contribution to the video documentary about Latin jazz, “Calle 54”. The work also included performances by noted Cuban and other Latin artists: Paquito D’Rivera, Gato Barbieri, Chucho Valdes and Cachao. In addition, Gonzalez has worked other great Latin artists including Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Machito, Tito Rodriguez and Ray Barretto. In the mainstream jazz world, Gonzalez has collaborated with such notable stars as George Benson, Kenny Dorham, Anthony Braxton and McCoy Tyner. Tony Williams.


Jerry Gonzalez & The Fort Apache Band [live] (1996)

Fire Dance (1996)

Pensativo (1995)

Crossroads (1994)

Molindo Cafe (1991)

Earthdance (1990)

Rumba Para Monk (1988)

Obatala (1988)

The River Is Deep (1982)

Ya Yo Me Cure (1979)