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Meet Benito Gonzalez: The fusion of world rhythms and straight-ahead jazz make this passionate performer an audience favorite all over the world. Benito Gonzalez is being recognized as an exciting pianist and composer for his well-received debut album, Starting Point, (with Christian McBride, Antonio Sanchez, Rene McLean and Ron Blake) and as winner of the 2005 Great American Jazz Piano Competition.
Presently, Benito is creating a very personal body of work for his sophomore album as a leader that will feature him as an improviser. He is also touring with international jazz artist, Kenny Garrett, adding numerous festivals and international jazz club dates to his credit. Benito has shared the stage with Curtis Fuller, Pharaoh Sanders, Bobby Hutcherson, Christian McBride, Rene McLean, Steve Turré, Hamiet Bluiett, Antonio Sanchez, T.K. Blue, Nicholas Payton and Jackie Mclean.
His multi-cultural talents have led to frequent recording dates; from American jazz masters to West African musicians to Latin bands. He has also served as musical director for several Venezuelan recording artists.
The Benito Gonzalez Trio has appeared at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland and the Jacksonville Jazz Festival in addition to many other noted jazz venues.
Teachers and/or influences? I am self-taught, but I have many influences: Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... Early...when I was growing up, playing percussion (Afro-Venezuelan music) with my uncles.
Your sound and approach to music: My sound is part of my experiences in life - so it changes as my life changes. My approach is just to play what I hear and what I feel comfortable with.
Your dream band: Jack DeJohnette on drums and Christian McBride on bass (who is actually on my first album).
I always like to have a balance when I put bands together and I think Christian is a good, solid bassist and Jack is always moving.
Anecdote from the road: Something unusual is that we had a tour for two weeks with Kenny Garrett and Kenny's luggage and Jamire William's cymbals were missing after the first gig! For two weeks, the luggage never showed up - not until they got back to the U.S.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? To open more doors for young, up-and-coming players.
Did you know... I just got my first real (Steinway grand) piano at age 32.
What is in the near future? Right now I'm getting together my working trio for touring and to do my next album.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.