Dennis Gonzalez Interview by Peter Amalietti, from "Mojstri ob Kaminu", Part I

Originally published in the journal “Glasbena Mladina (Musical Youth)”, Vol. 1, 1985, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia (now Slovenia):

In the last issue we wrote about this year's Ljubljana Jazz Workshop. This time we will present its leader, the American trumpeter, composer, arranger and conductor, Dennis González, who is also an established painter of many large oil paintings and collages. We talked after the successful completion of his workshop in the Tivoli recording studio, where González worked as a producer and arranger, and trumpet player - of course - on the new record by Svetlana Makarovič.

-Amalietti: Tell me please, about your music career.

-González:  At six years of age, I started to learn the piano. But I decided to stop taking lessons the year before I started playing the trumpet - classical music as well as marches and such.  In high school, in South Texas where I lived, I played in the school band.   In later years, I wanted a better life for my family - big cities give you more choices – and I also wanted to find musicians who would be interested in the music I was hearing in my head, so we moved to Dallas eight years ago.  There I became a professional musician. About a year after I’d made my decision to become professional, I was told by the pianist Art Lande that I should start an organization and record company, which I eventually called DAAGNIM. We began with concerts at exhibition openings and the like. Today we have 35 to 40 active and semi-active members.  So far we have released 14 records, many of which I have produced myself.  I also have a radio program on the local radio station KERA-FM.   And I teach Mariachi – Mexican music – in one of the city's high schools. This income allows me to play what I really want to play.

-A.: You call your music “new music”.  How does it differ from the “old” one?

-G.: I take old forms and synthesize new musics from them.  This is not actually new, but in the past these forms were considered new.  My music contains not only jazz, but all kinds of ethnic music, third world music, minimalism, surrealism, South American music...

-A.: What is your attitude about jazz?

-G: I do not concern myself with the question of whether I play jazz or not. If anyone asks if I play jazz, and it draws them in to begin to listen to my music, then it's a good thing.  Musically, I try to be a diplomat. This is very important.  If someone believes that jazz is bad, then of course they will think that my music is bad jazz.  If someone seems to hear rock in my music, that's also fine, or African music - OK, or Mexican music.  All that interests me is the fact that I play music, no matter what you call it. It is also true that often I use musical forms which were used in the past in jazz.  I think that jazz music is so open that it can include almost anything.

-A: So, in your opinion, the boundaries between jazz and non-jazz don’t exist?

-G: This boundary is blurred and unclear, especially when swing comes into the picture.   But there is also other music that swings, and which certainly is not jazz. Anthony Braxton, for example, has recently released the album “Seven Standards”, on which he plays very well-known jazz standards.  The music that he is associated with is definitely jazz, but some of what he plays is not at all jazz, but instead, is “Braxton Music” and which has his own feeling.  So it is very difficult to determine what is jazz and what is not. This is an important feature of his music - that it transcends so many styles.

-A.: So by this logic, your music is just “Gonzalez Music”, right?

-G.:  Yes.  But it’s also the music of those who play with me.  It’s certainly my music, but it’s not quite totally mine. It’s a paradox. All music comes from life, and so I allow musicians to play what they want from their lives, and conversely, they allow me to play what I want.

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