Latin salsa bass legend Andy González passed away this week from pneumonia and complications of diabetes. He was 69 years old. The New York-based upright bassist was beloved in the jazz world and made a huge impact on salsa and Latin jazz music and influenced many players who followed in his footsteps.
The news came from a social media post made by his sister, Eileen González-Altomari:
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our brother Andy González who passed away last night, Thursday, April 9th. He was 69 years old,” she wrote. “It is difficult to put into words the pain we are all feeling right now but we take comfort in knowing that he is no longer suffering and is now in the heavens with Jerry and our parents. We will miss him terribly. We thank you for your prayers and when the time is right, we will all join together to celebrate his life.”
Says Bass Magazine Senior Editor, Chris Jisi, “I was fortunate to get to interview Andy a number of times for Bass Player. He also performed at our live event, Bass Day 1998, in New York City, in an ensemble featuring percussion legend Manny Oquendo as part our Bass Player Lifetime Achievement Award presentation to the late Bobby Rodriguez [link below]. Andy was passionate about Bobby. He was passionate about Jaco (‘He plays with such bravura!’). And most of all he was passionate about music and the bass. As a fiery, deeply-engaged acoustic bassist (and equally ridiculous Ampeg Baby Bass player), he was the instrument’s absolute master at bridging Afro-Cuban music and jazz—salsa, bebop, free jazz, and a host of other leading-edge hybrids with a distinct New York City/Nuyorican flavor. This coming via ensembles like Conjunto Libre, Grupo Folklórico Y Experimental Nuevayorquino, and the Fort Apache Band, with his brother, trumpeter Jerry Gonzalez. He also contributed to classic sides with such wide-ranging artists as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Dizzy Gillespie, Ruben Blades, Willie Colón, Hilton Ruiz, Chico and Arturo O’Farrill, Kip Hanrahan, David Byrne, and fellow bassists Cachao, Jack Bruce, and Jamaaladeen Tacuma. In addition to his groundbreaking playing style, Gonzalez had a historian’s knowledge of Latin music, and one of the most coveted experiences for bassists in town was to get to hangout at Andy’s Bronx pad and have him spin seminal recordings. This was experienced by bass mentors of Andy, such as Jon Benitez, Avishai Cohen, and Luques Curtis and bass buddies like Ruben Rodriguez, Lincoln Goines, and Oskar Cartaya. I’m honored to say I also had the experience, as a journalist, and I watched in awe as Andy put on track after track that chronologically detailed the development of the tumbao and the most revered form of improvisation in the Latin bass realm, rhythmic counterpoint. Thanks Andy, for your music, your knowledge, your passion, and for the hang.”
Our thoughts are with all of his family and loved ones.
Andy González (January 1, 1951 – April 9, 2020)