It’s not every day the public gets to see a student pay tribute to his mentor in such a meaningful way. That’s what happened on Thursday, February 18, 2019, at The Zinc Bar in the West Village, when the prominent bassist, Luques Curtis paid a proper and heartfelt tribute to his renowned mentor and friend, Andy Gonzalez.
Before a full-house, Luques, pianist Manuel Valera, veteran drummer Willie Martinez, and percussionist Camilo Molina performed tunes that exemplify Andy’s career and superb taste in music. The Fort Apache Band’s Verdad Amarga, Orquesta Aragon’s Guajira con Tumbao, and Manny Oquendo and Libres’s Obatala/Little Sunflower.
Andy met Luques when he and his brother, (pianist) Zaccai Curtis, were in their teens and members of the group, Latin Flavor. Andy appeared on the same bill with percussionist Ed Fast’s band. Afterward, Andy launched into a diatribe about the fundamentals of the bass and one thing led to another. The conversation marked the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.
The evening was historical, in more ways than one. With the recent untimely passing of Andy’s brother, Jerry Gonzalez, and Andy virtually silenced due to a prolonged illness, a passing of the torch was imminent. Given that, what are the odds of seeing Andy and Luques, in such an intimate setting again?
Even in the best of times, Andy is stoic, a man of few words but from my vantage point, it was apparent that he was moved by the tribute. Also, I distinctly saw Andy give Luques a congratulatory thumbs up and nod of approval.
The icing on the cake (no pun intended) was a homemade cake, baked by Luques’s mother, Abby Curtis, especially for the occasion, which she lovingly served to everyone and anyone with a sweet tooth.
In attendance were Andy and Jerry’s family, friends, and supporters. His nieces, Xiomara and Marisol, Ted and Abby Curtis, documentarians Richie Brinez (who filmed the event) and Alfie Alvarado, journalist Russ Musto, the bassist Joe Santiago, who played a significant role in Luques’s development, and the trumpeters Carlos Abadie and Kali Peña.
Special thanks to the presenter, TJ English, and the Zinc Bar’s Dangerous Rhythms series for making the once-in-a-lifetime a reality.
Post-Script: Andy Gonzalez died on April 9, 2020, of complications from a pre-existing illness. He was 69.