Sons of music luminary Dennis Gonzalez share their father's legacy
Dennis Gonzalez was a father, renowned jazz musician and former KERA DJ who passed away last March.
This weekend, his family is holding a Father’s Day tribute show called Homage Nation: The Life and Music of Dennis Gonzalez.
KERA reporter Pablo Arauz Peña sat down with his sons Aaron and Stefan to talk about the life and legacy of Dennis Gonzalez.
The below interview has been edited for length and clarity.
So, for those listeners who don't know, who was Dennis Gonzalez?
Aaron: He was an educator, a broadcaster, musician, a visual artist, a poet and other kind of writer basically, you know, some people would say, kind of a renaissance man of sorts.
Okay, so tell us a little bit about his life and who he was as a person?
Aaron: He was born in South Texas, to Mexican American parents. You know, I think he had creative curiosity like ever since he was a child, if I'm to understand. And yeah, when he grew up, he, you know, he majored in a combination of education and linguistics.
Stefan: He was in college by the age of 16.
Aaron: Right, you know, he, but yeah, he came out and became a teacher, and has taught many subjects, but mostly in music or language.
Stefan: He ended up in [the] Dallas area because, Dallas Independent School District was trying to diversify. And he came from a family of all educators, and they basically all got offered jobs, to move from South Texas, from the valley, Mercedes, to come to Dallas in the 70s, to teach for DISD. And that's basically how his family ended up being here. Then shortly after he was introduced to Dallas, he started seeking out creative music and improvisational music and jazz.
Aaron: He had been a musician and artist his, basically his whole young life.
Stefan: Yeah, whenever he came here, it just kind of freed him up and it was an explosion and it kind of culminated with him starting to DJ here at KERA in 1978, which is right around the time that he started really putting out music, putting together his own recording sessions, putting shows together, and taking all of his different art forms more seriously, it kind of all came together in the end of the 70s.
You mentioned his ties to KERA and I'm really curious about that, because, you know, I know he had a show - a jazz show called Miles Out, right?
Stefan: Yeah, um, I guess he called it Miles Out, of course. Very obviously, in reference to Miles Davis, but I heard an interview with him recently where he said, miles is the starting point. And then everything beyond is out, so miles out. And yeah, he explored a lot of different International Jazz, international music so called World Music. It transcended just being jazz after a while but in it inception, he focused on international and experimental jazz.
Aaron: I think at the time, the local NPR [station], the stated format was news, classical, jazz. And out of the jazz world, I think, you know, you know, they had different parts of the day that were dedicated to each of those things. And I think when they get to the jazz, they probably had some more straight ahead shows some more, you know, standards kind of end, maybe even contemporary. But my dad was, I think deliberately hired because he had the knowledge of like the avant garde.
So what can fans and friends alike expect at this tribute show?
Aaron: We tried to have a diverse set, we have some of the more melodic stuff, we have some of the more free stuff, we have some of the more like kind of fun and jaunty and upbeat stuff.
Stefan: And as for the musicians that are playing with us, all of them had a personal relationship, friendship, you know, and did creative things together with my father.
Learn more about Dennis Gonzalez' music and the upcoming show.
Got a tip? Email Pablo Arauz Peña at email@example.com
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