What Was Supposed To Be Dennis González’s Next Gig Has Turned Into A Musical Show Celebrating His Life And Legacy.
Earlier this month, the Dallas music community lost a great.
Dennis González, the beloved Dallas trumpeter and educator whose music was praised around the world, died from health complications on March 14. He was 67. He is survived by his wife Carol, his adult children, Aaron and Stefan, and his 8-year-old granddaughter Issy, who he recently collaborated on an art show with.
Known as the godfather of avant-garde music, González was a musical force in the community. His extensive music career was never based on one specific genre or musical project. His music, teachings and love for art reached and inspired different fans who saw him as more than just a musician. He and his two sons had a modest fandom and were quite famous in Dallas, as well as internationally, for their family collaborations, including their avant-garde and free jazz trio Yells At Eels, and Aaron and Stefan’s music careers.
Those who adored Dennis will have chances to get together to remember his legacy. Dennis’ next gig was supposed to be April 10 at Wild Detectives, but it will now be a celebration of his life with his bandmates, family and friends playing in his honor, according to Stefan’s Facebook post.
The original lineup would have been a trio made up of Dennis, bassist Damon Smith and classic drummer Kalam Bob Moses, but now Aaron and Stefan will be playing instead alongside trumpeter Jawwaad Taylor. Also, instead of bassist Drew Phelps, who was a member of Dennis’ last trio Ataraxia, playing an opening solo set, all current members of the band, which has been renamed to Ataraxia +2 since it’s now made up of five members, will open. That lineup includes Phelps, Jagath Lakpriya, Jess Garland and Derek Rogers with Chris Curiel replacing Dennis on trumpet.
Writer and musician Ken Shimamoto will begin the event with a spoken tribute.
Before that event, The Kessler Theater will host “Dennis González: Celebration of Life” on March 31 honoring his long music career, which spans from musician to educator and broadcaster. In the courtyard of The Kessler, there will be two brief musical tributes by Gregg Prickett and Chris Curiel, as well as speakers from the community, according to the Facebook event page.
“My dad was always around in the community attending concerts, art exhibits, poetry readings, cultural events and speaking at cultural things,” Aaron says. “A lot of the people who support us, we speak to them and have interactions with them so it’s not a faceless mask.”
Dennis was a musician known for playing free jazz and hard bop. In 1976, he and his wife moved to Dallas and founded the label DAAGNIM, which that recorded local musicians. He became the host of KERA’s Miles Out, a free jazz and avant-garde-oriented show that later expanded to other styles, for twenty years despite the station’s limitations.
“One thing about that, my dad was always like ‘I’m gonna play whatever the hell I want,” Aaron says. “Whether it was news, classical jazz, or singer-songwriter-oriented, my dad always found a way to kind of bend that format to include basically anything he saw fit that he wanted to play.”
Dennis was also an educator at Dallas ISD and taught mariachi music to children and teens at La Rondalla, the Oak Cliff-based music nonprofit he founded in 2010.
Cover photo courtesy of Stefan González’s Facebook page.