A benefit for bassist ANDY GONZALEZ will be held on April 27 at Birdland in New York City. Arturo O'Farrill, in association with the club, will present the Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Graciela, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Manny Oquendo and Libre, Pucho and his Latin Soul Brothers, Matt Dillon, and surprise guests. Doors open at 8:00 pm.
Gonzalez, 53, is presently recovering from surgery for complications from diabetes, his second such operation since December. The hospitalizations have dealt a staggering financial blow to the musician, who has no health insurance.
Andy has given all of us years, if not decades, of incredible music," Arturo O'Farrill told Robert Dominguez of the New York Daily News (4/22). Yet at this point in his career he was still scuffling from gig to gig. For this illness to prevent him from working, it's just very hard on him. . . . Andy is one of the music's true heroes. He helped define Latin jazz for a generation, and he deserves our love, respect, and help."
Those unable to attend the fund-raiser who wish to make a contribution may send a check payable to Eileen Altomari (Andy's sister) and marked Andy Fund" to the attention of Arturo O'Farrill at Birdland, 315 W. 44th Street, New York, NY 10036. Every penny will go toward defraying the bassist's medical bills.
Andy Gonzalez and his older brother Jerry started playing music in junior high school in the Bronx. Pianist Lew Matthews saw us in the park near our housing project," Andy has said. He took us out of the street and had us play sophisticated music at a young age. He was our first mentor."
While still attending New York College of Music, Andy joined Ray Barretto's band, then toured with Dizzy Gillespie for nearly a year. The brothers were reunited on the bandstand when they were hired by pianist Eddie Palmieri in 1971; they helped organized the conjunto Libre with Manny Oquendo in '74 (Andy remains Libre's musical director). By the early 1980s the Fort Apache Band was evolving toward the vision of seamless Afro-Caribbean jazz the brothers Gonzalez have pursued for most of their careers.
In the mid-1990s the Fort Apache Band recorded three highly-regarded albums for Milestone. My work with Dizzy and Jerry's experience with Tony Williams and other jazz gigs had us always thinking about Latin jazz," says Andy. What we finally got with Fort Apache was the culmination of all the playing we've done -- it's all in this music."
Between 1995 and 2000 Andy also contributed to notable Milestone recording sessions by Chico O'Farrill (Pure Emotion, Carambola), Arturo O'Farrill (Blood Lines), and Manny Oquendo y Libre (Mejor Que Nunca, On the Move, Ahora, Los New Yorkinos!).
A new Fantasy compilation called Ritmo Afro-Cubano, culled from the deep Latin vein of the Fantasy catalog and due for release 6/8, contains two tracks -- by Chico O'Farrill and Manny Oquendo y Libre -- featuring the work of Andy Gonzalez.