New York City based bongocero and four time Grammy Award winner Jorge Gonzalez was surrounded by music from birth. The son of Puerto Rican parents, his father, Juan Gonzalez Jr., was a talented percussionist who performed with various Latin groups in the 1950s. “My dad always had instruments lying around the house,” says Jorge. “He’d teach me little by little. But mostly I learned just by watching him.”
By the time Jorge was fifteen, he was skilled enough to get his first recording call on a session with Jose Raul Morales and Issy Morales, former trumpet player for Quique Lucas group, which is now the Sonora Poncena. Meanwhile he continued his development by studying the masters. “I loved to listen to Cachao and the Cuban jam sessions,” says Jorge. Yeyito Iglesias, Chuckie Lopez, Manny Oquendo, and Johnny Rodriguez also influenced Jorge. As Jorge got older and his skills increased and got his first big break playing with “El Judio Maravilloso,” Larry Harlow.
It has since evolved into a nearly thirty-year career as a first-call bongocero for Jorge. He’s recorded over one hundred albums, including such Grammy winners as Celia Cruz’ La Negra Tiene Tumbao, Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s Viva La Tradicion, Ray Barretto’s Soy Dichoso, and Ruben Blades’ Amor Y Control and Todos Vuelven Live Vol 1 y 2. He’s worked with such other greats as Willie Colon, Juan Luis Guerra, Yomo Toro, and Chico Mendoza. He also played on the original cast recording of Paul Simon’s Broadway musical The Capeman. He has also performed with Johnny Pacheco for over 20 years.
One of Jorge’s primary gig these days is with the Grammy Award winning, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, in which he plays bongos as part of a three-man percussion section that also includes LP artist George Delgado. This high-profile gig has taken Jorge across the USA, as well as to Germany, Japan, Spain, Argentina, Columbia, Panama, Chile, and the Caribbean.
Jorge also plays with actor, musician, and activist Ruben Blades. Jorge’s instruments of choice are the LP Eddie Montalvo Signature Bongos. “I like the way they’re constructed,” says Jorge. “They’re durable but not too heavy. And when they have the right skins on them and they’re tuned well, they sound beautiful. I play them seated, in the traditional manner. It’s the most comfortable way for me.”
Jorge has also made guest appearances on LP instructional DVD’s, including Pablo “Chino” Nunez’ The Rhythmic Construction of a Salsa Tune-Vol. 2 and LP Drum Solos Revisited.
By Pete Nater