Luis Eric González
By Dan Kimpel
Trumpeter/arranger and composer Luis Eric González has made it his mission to educate audiences about the diversity of Cuban music beyond salsa. “Son, mambos, boleros -- we have so much more,” he explains.
Now based in Los Angeles and heading Azulu Music, his own production company, González has earned a distinguished résumé as a musician, having performed and/or recorded with luminaries like Tito Puente, Cachao, Alex Acuña, Gloria Estefan, José Rizo's Jazz On The Latin Side All-Stars, Raúl Malo, Ricky Martin, Cuba L.A., Lou Bega, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Tito Nieves and Yari Moré. With singer/percussionist Carlo Bustamante Jr., González established a band -- Bayaló - to accompany the late "Queen of Salsa," Celia Cruz on her U.S west coast performances. His credits are cross-cultural, as he has worked with rock icons Don Henley and Dave Stewart and performed alongside Terence Blanchard for the Antonio Banderas film Original Sin, and on the soundtrack of The Hot Chick starring Rob Schneider.
González grew up in Havana, playing drums in elementary school before switching to trumpet. He studied at the city’s prestigious Amadeo Roldán Conservatory for eight years and graduated with a degree as a trumpet teacher. While teaching, he played with bands on the side, and after being drafted and serving in the military, returned to Havana to record and perform. (Like many other successful Cuban musicians, González was permitted to work abroad in an officially approved "velvet exile," as long as the ruling regime received a significant portion of his earnings.) He performed in Europe and South America and in 1997, moved permanently to the U.S.
In Los Angeles, González is at the center of a growing coterie of Cuban players, “Right now, I am putting together all of the Cuban musicians in Los Angeles to do a big show,” he notes. When he composes, Gonzalez says that he prefers to work solo. “Mostly I write by myself. I like being here alone where it’s quiet -- I love that part. I write on the piano. Since I studied composition in Cuba the piano helps with my arrangements -- the harmonic stuff.”
Audiences know Gonzalez as a live player, an energetic improvisationalist whose presence ignites the best Cuban bands in his adopted hometown. “Whatever is in your mind you can put it out there. People are open to hearing all kinds of music. There are great opportunities and you can play everywhere -- I love this city.”