Taichung Jazz Festival Artist Spotlight:
By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Alicia Yu
When a jazz act earns accolades such as "the band that changed Latin Jazz forever" (Down Beat Magazine) and "the most influential Afro-Caribbean jazz group of the past 30 years" (New York Times), it's certainly time to sit up straight and pay attention. The recipient of such effusive praise is legendary jazz trumpeter and percussionist Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band, which will grace Taichung with its ground-breaking music this month.
Even before founding the Fort Apache Band back in 1979, the Manhattan-born Gonzalez had already made a name for himself, being influenced earlier on by greats like Dizzy Gillespie (for whom he played congas) to fuse African-based elements and jazz rhythms. Other collaborations took place with the likes of Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, McCoy Tyner and Jaco Pastorius.
However, it is with the Fort Apache Band that Gonzalez has won much of his greatest acclaim, as the group released 10 albums. These earned the group two Grammy nominations (for albums "Crossroads" and "Pensativo")--among six total Grammy nominations Gonzalez has received--and other forms of recognition including multiple "Beyond Group of the Year" awards from Down Beat, "Jazz Record of the Year" from the French Academie du Jazz, "Best Jazz Group" in Playboy Magazine's Readers' Poll, and a 1998 sweep of the Latin Jazz category awards at the New York Jazz Awards.
Gonzalez broadened his lasting contributions to jazz and dance further when in 2000 he moved to Madrid, Spain, where he gained fame and recognition as an innovator and pioneer in the fusing of jazz with flamenco. His groundbreaking 2004 "Los Piratas Del Flamenco" band and album received a "Best Latin Jazz Album" Grammy nomination and earned the best Latin-jazz album of the year at New York's Critics Award. His influence inspired the likes of Spanish Academy Award winning film director and Grammy-winning music producer Fernando Trueba to proclaim, "The knowledgeable flamenco people say that Jerry's stay in Spain has changed flamenco forever." On top of all these and other awards, he received the "Latino of the Year Award" in the 100 Latinos Awards-Madrid in 2010.
Despite his already-enormous influential role on Latin Jazz over the years, there is no sign that Jerry Gonzalez will be slowing down any time soon, as he continues to pursue new musical horizons with the Fort Apache Band and on his own, which is a very good thing.