It’s not often the public gets to see a student pay tribute to his mentor in such a heartfelt and meaningful way. Especially when the pupil is the prominent bassist Luques Curtis, and the “teacher” is the renowned, Andy Gonzalez.
At the Zinc Bar, before a full-house, Luques, the pianist Manuel Valera, the drummer Willie Martinez, and the percussionist Camilo Molina performed tunes by Orquesta Aragon, the Fort Apache Band, and Manny Oquendo and Libre. Also, songs with commanding bass lines and percussive elements that exemplify Andy’s influence, such as Obatala/Little Sunflower, the ballad, Verdad Amarga, and a jazzy interpretation of Orquesta Aragon’s, Guajira con Tumbao.
The two met when Luques and his brother, the pianist, Zaccai Curtis, were teenagers and members of the group, Latin Flavor. On the same bill, Andy appeared with percussionist Ed Fast’s band. Afterward, Andy approached Luques and launched into a diatribe about the fundamentals of the bass. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.
On a historical note, the evening could not have been more significant. With Andy’s brother, Jerry Gonzalez gone (1949-2018), and Andy’s bass silenced due to a prolonged illness, the time to pass the torch was apparent. Also, what are the odds of seeing Andy and Luques together in such an intimate setting again?
Andy is a man of long silences and few words, but as the set came to a close, I distinctly saw Andy give Luques a nod of approval and a congratulatory thumbs up.
The icing on the cake (no pun intended), was a photo cake, baked by Abby Curtis (mother of Luques and Zaccai) baked especially for the occasion, generously served to everyone with a sweet-tooth.
In attendance were Andy’s nieces (Jerry Gonzalez’s lovely daughters, Xiomara and Marisol. Also, Ted and Abby Curtis, the documentarians Richie Brinez and Alfie Alvarado, journalist Russ Musto, bassist Joe Santiago (who also played a significant role in Luques’s development) and trumpeters Carlos Abadie and Kali Peña.
Special thanks to TJ English’s Dangerous Rhythms series and the Zinc Bar for making the event possible.