Dennis Gonzalez Talks Life, Death and Alvin Fielder
Dallas jazz trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez and New Orleans drummer Alvin Fielder met in New Orleans close to 30 years ago, and have been collaborating ever since. It's a relationship that's lasted longer than most marriages, and listening to Gonzalez's latest Yells At Eels collaboration with Fielder, Resurrection and Life (review in next week's issue), that sense of history unfurls in the most magical way.
The family Gonzalez
Balance is important to Gonzalez, which is why Yells At Eels, which features his sons Aaron and Stefan, could easily be viewed next to their grindcore duo, Akkolyte. There's no genre division, just a spiritual hand that guides them through whatever music they happen to make, be it thrash or free jazz. I asked Dennis a little about his history with Fielder, and well, he held forth.
"I have been playing and recording with Alvin Fielder for almost 30 years. My sons were tiny tots at the time of the early recordings and concerts, running around in skivvies all over the place as we recorded and rehearsed at the house in Oak Cliff. So they grew up with all these legends hanging out in the living room and eating their mom's great country cooking during the rehearsals. It was in 1999 that I started making plans to have Aaron and Stefan, now great instrumentalists in their own right, join with me and Alvin. Nothing wrong with two percussionists playing together, especially Stefan and Alvin! So we started recording Yells At Eels with Alvin Fielder and other well-known jazzers as well.
"About three years ago, we realized we'd not heard from Alvin for a minute, and then we started getting phone calls and e-mails that he was gravely ill. He had heart problems, lung problems, connective tissue problems, and apparently passed away several times and was brought back each time. He was really ill for a long time, but slowly he recovered and got up out of his bed and started playing again. As soon as he was up to it, we invited him to come to Dallas and play with us.
"Jeff Liles gave us a great gig at The Kessler and we spent the week recording.
That was in 2010. In September of 2011, we invited him back to come and fine-tune the music, and we finished the recording. Ayler records in France decided to put it out for us.
"Life is short, and often fragile, but the fact that you and I, for example, are living on this planet at the same moment in time is pretty miraculous. And we die and are reborn daily. That's what this CD is about."