Benito Gonzalez courtesy BL Media
Born into a family of Venezuelan folk musicians, jazz pianist Benito Gonzalez has always had a deep-rooted appreciation for pastimes and traditions. Today, as a rising star of one of America’s finest musical traditions, Gonzalez says he has come to his current status by following in the footsteps of jazz’s ancestral forebears — and indubitable good fortune.

Gonzalez’s big break came when he crossed paths with African percussionist Okyerema Asante, who invited him to Washington, D.C., to play with jazz saxophonist Rene McLean.

“I was searching for my sound at that time,” says Gonzalez, who moved to Washington in 2000. “D.C. was a great school for me. I learned more about jazz concepts here than I could have in New York, where the musical culture is more mixed.”

Circles by Benito GonzalezWhile Gonzalez, now based in New York, is still an emerging artist, he says he is already itching to give back and share what he has learned.

“When you have worked with the masters like I have — that’s when you learn the traditions,” Gonzalez says. “I hope that I can inspire young musicians to take jazz to the next level.”

On his just-released follow-up disc, “Circles,” Gonzalez pays homage to the hard-driving, hyper-improvisational ’60s-era “bebop” jazz style of his mentors, one of whom, esteemed tenor saxophonist Azar Lawrence, features on the new album and joins Gonzalez for four shows at Twins Jazz this weekend to celebrate the album’s release.

» Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW; Fri.-Sat, 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., $15; 202-234-0072. (U St.-Cardozo)

Written by Express contributor Johnathan Rickman
Photo courtesy DL Media