Andy González is one of the most respected and well-known bassists in Jazz & Latin music today. Born in New York City in 1951 to parents from the Lares section of Puerto Rico, music was already in his blood. His father Gerardo was an accomplished vocalist who sang with Augie Melendez Y Su Combo, a Bronx-based group that patterned itself after La Playa Sextet. At age 13, after several years of violin & bass training, Andy joined a band with his brother Jerry called the Latin Jazz Quintet, which was heavily influenced by the sound of Cal Tjader’s group. The band’s first gig was at the Colgate Gardens in the Bronx opposite Tjader himself. Another notable gig for the band was at the Embassy Ballroom in the Bronx, on the same bill as Tito Rodriguez, Eddie Palmieri & Joe Cuba.
These were formative years for the González brothers. In that same Latin Jazz Quintet was a very influential pianist named Llewellen Matthews (longtime musical director for vocalist Nancy Wilson) who later formed a rehearsal big band that both brothers played in. From Matthews, both Andy & Jerry acquired the discipline needed to make it as professionals. “If it were not for him there’s no telling what path our lives would have taken,” said Andy. Over the next few years, the brothers would find themselves in a variety of musical settings: playing Jazz with Kenny Dorham & Dizzy Gillespie and Salsa with Eddie Palmieri & Ray Barretto. During his years with Palmieri, Andy formed a friendship with another influential figure in his life, the great timbalero & percussionist Manny Oquendo. In 1974, the two men would form the group Libre with Manny as a leader on timbales & Andy as co-leader & musical director, a partnership which would last for 35 years until Oquendo’s death in 2009. Another important group formed simultaneously which Oquendo was also a part of was Grupo Folklorico Experimental Y Nuevayorkino. Both of these bands are still active today. In 1980, the González brothers would again break new ground with the formation of the Fort Apache Band, arguably one of the most important & influential groups playing Latin Jazz. This band also is active & continues to perform. Andy is at work doing the mixing for a CD to be released under his name, his first as a leader.
With over 50 years of experience playing professionally, and over 800 recording sessions (from his first with Monguito Santamaria to the present) Andy González is still much in demand today.
Suggested Andy Gonzalez Playlist
Compiled by Tomas Peña)
- Arabian Nights (with Deep Rumba)
- Asia Minor (with Conjunto Libre)
- Cimarron (with Las Estrellas Caiman)
- To Wisdom the Prize (with the Fort Apache Band)
- Solar (with Luis Perdomo)
- Footprints (with Arturo O’Farrill, Dafnis Prieto)
- Donna Lee/Gozar y Bailar with Conjunto Libre
- Conversando, Converso (with Nelson Gonzalez)
- Vieques (with Arturo O’Farrill)
- Little Sunflower (with Tito Puente)