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Dennis Gonzalez, Dallas music luminary and teacher, dies at 68

Dennis Gonzalez, acclaimed Dallas jazz trumpeter dies at 68.
Courtesy: Gonzalez family.
Dennis Gonzalez was the bandleader on more than 35 recordings spanning several decades and performed live around the world.

Gonzalez’s contributions to experimental jazz spanned decades and reached across the globe.

The North Texas creative community is mourning the loss of Dallas jazz trumpeter and educator Dennis Gonzalez.

Gonzalez died from health complications on Tuesday. He was 68.

He is survived by his wife, Carol; his adult children, Aaron and Stefan, and grandaughter, Issy.

Gonzalez was a prolific artist. He’s featured as a bandleader on at least 35 recordings dating back to 1979 and performed live around the world.

Born in Abilene in 1954 and raised in South Texas, Gonzalez found a calling in music at an early age.

He eventually made his way to Dallas where he would not only perform, but also work as an educator teaching music and language. He was involved in leading one of the first mariachi programs in Dallas ISD.

Aaron and Stefan Gonzalez are both musicians and often performed with their father in Yells at Eels, which was one of his many bands.

In the song "Midsummer Rain," his trumpet leads a freestyle rhythm performed by Aaron and Stefan.

Aaron Gonzalez says his dad was also known by many as a teacher, visual artist and writer, among other things.

"I'm happy that my dad is no longer suffering or in pain from his illness," Aaron said. "But I'm gonna miss him terribly."

Stefan Gonzalez said their dad was a musical force in the community.

“I just wish healing to everyone who's hurting right now but also we’ll always have his memory, his art, his poetry, his music, and all the many people who he taught which is incredibly powerful, you know,” Stefan said.

Drew Phelps, a longtime friend and bandmate, said Gonzalez was known for his improvisational technique.

"That was the thing that was so you know, neat about him and amazing was his ability not to be, you know, not like playing the same thing all the time, who was always trying to find that spot," Phelps said.

In the song "Namesake" with the Dennis Gonzalez New Dallas Sextet, his expressive trumpet style shines through a flow of avant-garde rhythm that was a hallmark of his stylings.

Gonzalez was also a DJ for the show "Miles Out" on KERA 90.1 FM between 1978 and 1998.

Bob Ray Sanders, who was the station manager at the time, said he brought joy and vision to KERA.

"He was an even bigger man in terms of his humanity," Sanders said. "He was an incredible human being and I'm sure that's what he will be remembered for."

His son Aaron said he was also outspoken on current events.

On his Facebook page, Gonzalez's last public words were "War...what is it good for? Absolutely nothing," with a link to Edwin Starr's popular anti-war song "War."

This story was updated on Thursday, March 17.

Got a tip? Email Pablo Arauz Peña at

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Pablo Arauz Peña is the Growth and Infrastructure Reporter for KERA News.