Jerry Gonzalez Day

June 5, 1949 – October 1, 2018


A tribute to the influential trumpeter and percussionist

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Trumpeter, percussionist, and bandleader Jerry Gonzalez was born on June 5, 1949, in the Bronx, New York.

Gonzalez’s father sang in Latin bands, his uncle was a guitarist, and his younger brother, Andy Gonzalez, is a bassist who has often worked in Jerry’s bands.

Jerry Gonzalez began playing trumpet when he was 12, and inspired by Mongo Santamaria, he soon started playing conga as well.

He studied at New York City’s Music and Art High School and the New York College of Music.

Among Gonzalez’s early associations were working with Monguito Santamaria (Mongo’s son), touring with the Beach Boys on trumpet, and playing conga with Dizzy Gillespie when he was 20.

He was a member of Eddie Palmieri’s band for four years and worked with notable musicians such as Manny Oquendo, Machito, Ray Barretto, Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Tony Williams, Archie Shepp, and Woody Shaw.

In 1980, Jerry Gonzalez became a bandleader, and in 1982, he formed the Fort Apache Band, an influential group that blended post-bop jazz and Latin music, with Gonzalez switching between trumpet and congas.

Gonzalez, who also worked with Jaco Pastorius and McCoy Tyner, appeared in the film “Calle 54,” and in 2000, he settled in Madrid where he often fused jazz and flamenco music.

Here is Jerry Gonzalez and his Fort Apache Band performing in 2010.

-Scott Yanow


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