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Bassist Andy González, Who Brought Bounce To Latin Dance And Jazz, Dies At 69

Courtesy of the artist

Andy González, a New York bassist who both explored and bridged the worlds of Latin music and jazz, has died. The 69-year-old musician died in New York on Thursday night, from complications of a pre-existing illness, according to family members.

Born and bred in the Bronx, Andy González epitomized the fiercely independent Nuyorican attitude through his music — with one foot in Puerto Rican tradition and the other in the cutting-edge jazz of his native New York.

González's career stretched back decades, and included gigs or recordings with a who's-who of Latin dance music, including Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Ray Barretto. He also played with trumpeter and Afro-Cuban jazz pioneer Dizzy Gillespie while in his twenties, as he explored the rich history of Afro-Caribbean music through books and records.

In the mid-1970s, he and his brother, the trumpet and conga player Jerry González, hosted jam sessions — in the basement of their parents' home in the Bronx — that explored the folkloric roots of the then-popular salsa movement. The result was an influential album, Concepts In Unity, recorded by the participants of those sessions, who called themselves Grupo Folklórico y Experimental Nuevayorquino.

Toward the end of that decade, the González brothers were part of another fiery collective known as The Fort Apache Band, which performed sporadically and went on to release two acclaimed albums in the '80s — and continued to release music through the following decades — emphasizing the complex harmonies of jazz with Afro-Caribbean underpinnings. Throughout, Andy was also putting in time with his and Manny Oquendo's popular dance band, Libre.

A prolific side man, Andy González released his only solo album, Entre Colegas, in 2016, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.