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Jerry Gonzalez has taken a global view of jazz in creating his unique brand of improvised music. While his trumpet and flügelhorn reflect the influence of Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, his personal cultural roots have given him a natural understanding of Afro-Cuban rhythms. As he explained to The Detroit News, "I am bilingual — I speak Spanish and English. I can play the blues and I can play the rumba." Launching his musical career in 1970 as a member of Dizzy Gillespie's band, Gonzalez briefly joined Eddie Palmieri in the group El Son the following year. He soon left to join timbale player Manny Oquendo's band, Conjunto Libre. Although he formed his own group, Ya Yo Me Cure, in 1980, Gonzalez didn't come into his own as a bandleader until forming Jerry Gonzalez & the Fort Apache Band with his brother and bassist Andy and drummer Steve Barrios. After recording two albums at European jazz festivals, the group came into their own with their third release, Rumba Para Monk, in 1989. In addition to topping the worldbeat group category in a readers' poll conducted by Down Beat, the album was named Jazz Album of the Year by the Academie Du Jazz in France. Gonzalez has performed and or recorded with a lengthy list of jazz artists, including Tony Williams, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Dorham, Anthony Braxton, Tito Rodriguez, Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Paquito D'Rivera, and Machito.