It’s not often the public sees a student pay tribute to a mentor in such a personal way. Especially when the student is the prominent bassist Luques Curtis, and the mentor is the living legend, Andy Gonzalez.
At the Zinc Bar, with Andy looking on Luques paid homage through a series of anecdotes and a repertoire that characterized their respective careers.
A reluctant but engaging speaker, Luques explained how meeting and studying under Andy changed his life. The two met when Luques and his brother Zaccai were teenagers and part of the group, Latin Flavor. As fate would have it, Andy was a special guest with Ed Fast’s band. Afterward, he approached Luques, struck up a conversation and launched into a diatribe about the bass and how it should sound. It was the beginning of a beautiful and enduring relationship.
Luques, who was joined by the pianist Manuel Valera, the drummer Willie Martinez and the percussionist Camilo Molina performed tunes such as Orquesta Aragon’s Guajira con Tumbao, which Andy exposed him to as a teenager. Also, songs from the Fort Apache Band and Manny Oquendo and Libre’s repertoires and tunes with commanding bass lines and percussive elements.
I particularly enjoyed the group’s interpretation of Obatala/Little Sunflower, the ballad, Verdad Amarga and the jazzy interpretation of Aragon’s, Guajira con Tumbao.
On a historical note, the evening could not have been more significant. With Jerry Gonzalez gone and Andy’s bass virtually silenced due to illness the need to pass the knowledge, from one generation to the next, could not be more evident. Also, who knows if we will ever see Luques and Andy in this kind of setting again?
Everyone who is familiar with Andy realizes that he is a man of long silences and few words but as the evening came to a close, I distinctly observed him giving Luques a nod of approval and a congratulatory thumbs up!
The icing on the cake was Abby Curtis (mother of Luques and Zaccai) who baked a cake, decorated it with Andy and Luques’ likeness and served it with love to anyone with a sweet tooth.
Among those in attendance were Jerry Gonzalez’s daughters, Xiomara Amelia and Marisol, Ted and Abby Curtis, documentarians Richie Brinez and Alfie Alvarado, the journalist Russ Musto, the bassist Joe Santiago (who played a significant role in Luques’ development) and the trumpeters Carlos Abadie and Kali Peña, who sat in with the band.
Thanks to TJ English’s Dangerous Rhythms series and the Zinc Bar for providing the platform and good vibes.