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Fort Apache: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

The 2018 death of Jerry González closed the book on the Fort Apache Band, which took Latin jazz to new heights

The Fort Apache Band, which included Jerry González, his brother Andy, Kenny Kirkland, Sonny Fortune, Nicky Marrero, Milton Cardona, Papo Vázquez and the late Jorge Dalto, are best known for 1988’s Rumba Para Monk. (Photo by: John Abbot)

It’s an overflow crowd at St. Peter’s Church—“the jazz church”—on Lexington Avenue in midtown Manhattan. Part cathedral, part music hall, St. Peter’s has served as a final memorial place for some of the greatest musicians of all time. Duke Ellington was one of its original donors. Art Blakey was memorialized here, as were John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Carlos “Patato” Valdez, and many others who have gone on to assume their slots in that star-studded band in the sky.

On this particular evening, the crowd has an undeniable Latin flavor but is also wonderfully diverse. Brown, black, and white; male and female; old and young—classic New York. Before the night is over, some of these attendees will be up out of their seats dancing in memory of a native son. Jerry González, founder and leader of the Fort Apache Band, has died, and damned if that isn’t cause for both grief and adulation.

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