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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

RIP Dennis Gonzalez - A Tribute

 (Photo: Art House, Texas)

By Stef Gijssels

The news reached us about the passing away of trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez. I am not sure anymore which album was the first I ever heard by him, but I was sold immediately to his sound and approach. His music finds a great balance between a composed boppish core and more free explorations on his horn, which always sounds warm and lyrical, regardless of the context. That first album made me look up all his work, even the hard to find albums from the early years, managing to collect 35 of them, but still this is not all. As a true creative and authentic artist, he was open to many influences and welcoming sounds from mainstream players to world music, which he further explored in his later years with the Ataraxia ensemble. 

Gonzalez was a real creative artist and educator, active in visual arts and poetry, with a great spiritual and authentic humanism driving him, working with other people, working with his family, his sons Aaron (bass) and Stefan (drums and vibes), but also producing art and exhibiting with this grand-daughter Isabella. This last fact shows his generous nature and willingness to engage in the pleasure and playfulness of true art. One of his bands - "Yells At Eels" - is a trio with this two sons. How many musicians can achieve that closeness? 

It demonstrates that he was an artist who was not only creative and expressive, but also someone who always goes into the essence of things, looking for the good things, with enthusiasm, without any sense of cynicism or ego. I can only recommend that you check his Facebook page to read the endless stories of sympathy from all the people he must have met during his life, or like me, only communicated with through social media and email. 

To readers who do not know his music yet, I can recommend the "Nile River Suite" (2004), "Dance Of The Soothsayer’s Tongue" (2007), "The Gift Of Discernment" (2008), "Hymn For Thomas Stanko" (2009), "The Great Bydgoszcz Concert" (2009). 

Having been ill for some years, he was writing his memoirs and memories on music, archiving his sheet music, drawings, his self-made and self-bound books. I do not think he managed to finish this project, but luckily his rich musical catalogue is available. 

I think he always gave it all, expressing his feelings and thoughts and insights, appreciated by family, bandmembers, students and friends for his soulful, warm and authentic personality. 

On February 9 of this year , Gonzalez said in an interview in the Fort Worth Weekly: “I think that life has been pretty good, I wake up in the morning and think, ‘Wow, what a life!'"

We can only thank him for the music and art that he left behind. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. 

The video below gives a full concert of "Yells At Eels" in Houston, Texas in 2011. Dennis on trumpet with his two sons and Jason Jackson on reeds.


Captain Hate said...

I met Dennis, along with his two sons, at the 2005 Vision Fest where they played with Oliver Lake way into the final night, after having interacted with him through a website and personal emails. For being a busy musician he never spared any time or effort to interact with me at great length. He was such a melodic player, adapting easily to the most challenging settings. I eventually lost touch with him and feel bad for being unaware of his final travails. His was a life well lived.

Gennaro said...

The world has lost a true artist and a great person.
I would like to remember two albums
through which I discovered his music:
"STEFAN" by New Dallas Quartet (Silkheart),
"NAMESAKE" by New Dallas Sextet (Silkheart).
RIP Dennis

DS99 said...

I had some communication with him when was online at in early 2000s, sent me a copy of Yells it Eels CD have to search for it, other fine albums are the Silkhearts from the 1980s. By all accounts a great musician and educator.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day (when the USA still had affordable overseas postage rates) I used to buy CDs directly from him. On one occasion a CD that was listed as available turned out to be out of stock and he made a CD-R copy for me and billed me for the cost of a blank disc. I remember a tale he told on one of his former websites about performing at a venue in some far-flung part of Europe -- he checked the available piano, identified several defective keys, and modified his music accordingly to avoid using those notes. That is serious attention to detail! He was one of those people who lived a long way away from the jazz epicentre (NYC) and never recorded for a major label, but once you came across one of his recordings (in my case a Daagnim LP at a record fair in a small town in England) you wanted to seek out a lot more of his work. As I salute his memory by listening to the many recordings I have, I'm glad that I was able to thank him personally for his music on the various occasions that I bought CDs directly from him.

Umberto said...

I want to remember, among the notable and forgotten "Catechism" (music & arts 1996) with K. Tippett, E. Dean, L. Moholo etc.

juan antonio said...

Me he quedado impactado con la noticia. Yo también lo conocí personalmente, fue en Lisboa, en la antigua tienda de Clean Feed hojeando algunos de sus muy originales libros manuscritos y como acabo de leeros a mí también me pareció una gran persona, así, sin más, con tan poca o tan nula cercanía, fue algo como un flechazo o como si su áurea me hubiese dado toda la información que precisaba para conocer su gran humanidad, este fue el primer contacto con él, a los pocos años volvimos a coincidir, éramos un grupo de amigos portugueses, él y yo que soy español, entre ellos hablaban en inglés y al yo no conocer esta lengua estaba un tanto descolocado, inmediatamente se dio cuenta de la situación y no tardó en ocuparse de mí ya que hablaba español. Nuestro tercer y último contacto fue mediante un mensaje de correo, quise hacerme con una grabación que acababa de editar junto a Faruq Z. Bey "Hymn for Tomasz Stanko" y se la pedí a él directamente, aunque las dos ocasiones anteriores habían sido breves y espaciadas en el tiempo me dijo que por supuesto que se acordaba de mí, cosa que aun sin dudarlo me pareció extraña, pero así era él, al preguntarle por la forma de pago me dijo que me mandaba el cd por correo y que a mitad de camino, en medio del atlántico se cruzaría con mi dinero. Otro que ya se habrá unido a la "Big Band de los cielos" Descanse en paz.