Saludos amigos! We continue our look at the Rochester Latin music legacy, and in this issue we are going to take a look at a pair of brothers who have been involved in the Rochester Latin music scene since they were teenagers. The Gonzalez brothers are José and Angel (along with Freddy and Eddy, whom we’ll talk about in another issue). Their main inspiration was their mom, Julia, and thanks to her, today they form the group Ritmo Seis/Rhythm Six. Before coming together, they became members of different local groups either by playing separately or with one another.
José "Papo" Gonzalez, the eldest, began his musical career at the age of 12, playing guitar with a group called The Aces of Hearts. One of the highlights of the group was opening for Puerto Rican singer La Lloroncita at the now-gone Capital Theater on Main Street and Plymouth Avenue. Papo picked up the bass after the group broke up and taught himself how to play it. His first experience as a professional musician was while practicing his brand-new and challenging instrument, when another soon-to-be Rochester legend and musician, Johnny Vega, heard him practice and could not believe that a teenager could play with so much swing. Johnny invited him to join the 12-piece band Orq. Sabor. After a brief stint with Orq. Sabor, Papo played for Orq. Antonetti and the band Los Imposibles, which later transformed itself into Orq. La Muralla, two of the hottest salsa bands in Rochester in the late ’70s early ’80s. He played with both bands for a period of 25 years! He recorded on Antonetti’s second album, "La Fiesta," and La Muralla’s second LP, "Avisale," for Fania record’s sublabel Tico. Other groups that Papo participated in or created were Los Siete Gatos, Grupo Cache (which he formed), Conjunto Afinque, Grupo Melodia, La Melodica, Los Fabulosos del Merengue, Trio Los Arpegios and Geland. Papo has played with the who’s who as far as national and international artists that passed through Rochester — from Celia Cruz, José Jose, Vitin Aviles, Yomo Toro, Maso Rivera and Nieves Quintero, to Hector Lavoe, Ismael Quintana, Milly, Jocelyn Y Los Vecinos, and many more!
Today, we can find Papo playing with his brothers in the group Ritmo Seis/Rhythm Six, and he also is the cohost of the radio show "Radio Fuego Latino," which is streamed on the Internet every Friday night. Ritmo Seis/Rhythm Six released a production in 2008 called "Pa’lante Y Sin Miedo," and the group is working on its second release, "Ayudensen."
Angel Gonzalez picked up his passion for percussion at the tender age of 16, when the local rumberos and congueros would gather to jam at 20 School Park. Along with his older brother José and Johnny Vega, Angel became part of Los Siete Gatos in 1980 and later in ’81 moved to Conjunto Afinque, where they recorded a 45 rpm LP with cuatro extraordinaire Maso Rivera. Angel played for Daniel Santos with the group La Melodia, then he moved on to play with Los Borinqueños, and later Grupo Chevere and Grupo Renovacion. He also recorded with singer Geland, Trio Los Arpegios and La Muralla, and he recently played with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra with trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. Right now, he is part of Rhythm Six with his brothers.
As you can see by these two gentlemen’s résumés, many bands were created and paraded through the Rochester Latin scene.