Title: Associate Professor of Music
Department: Music and Music Education
Office Location: Music Building 203
B.A. from Central College
M.M. from University of North Texas
Areas of expertise: jazz theory, jazz band techniques, improvisation, applied theory, jazz band, Vocal/Instrumental Combos
Gabriel Espinosa was born in Mérida, Mexico in 1952. His love of music began at a very young age. With the help of his mother he began playing the guitar at the age of six. By the age of fourteen, along with his brothers Victor and Patricio, Espinosa performed with their group “Los Deltons,” where he played bass guitar.
In 1976 Espinosa attended Central College where he received a bachelor’s in music. He then attended Berklee College of Music in Boston where he received a degree in arranging and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1983. In his last year at Berklee, Espinosa formed the group Ashanti along with his friend and classmate George Robert. During that year, he played with Ashanti in venues all around Boston.
From 1984-91 he performed with his group Ashanti in Cancún, Mexico. In 1992, Espinosa attended the University of North Texas where he received a master’s degree in jazz studies. While studying at UNT, Espinosa was also a part of the UNT Jazz Singers. Along with his studies, Espinosa produced several albums for Mexican artists, including Armando Manzanero.
In 1996, Espinosa returned to Central where he became director of jazz studies. He not only directed the jazz band and taught private music lessons, but also started the Vocal Combos music program, which has been very successful. With his return to Pella also came the return of his band Ashanti. In the years that followed, Ashanti recorded three albums, which include “En Fuego,” “Sin Fronteras” and “Dyos Bo’otik,” as well touring in venues all over the Midwest and Mexico. Ashanti has had many guest musicians including Alex Acuña, Anat Cohen, Gil Goldstein and Dave Samuels among others.
In January 2008 Espinosa celebrated his 40 years in music. On January 7, 2008, Espinosa had the opportunity to present his band Ashanti Mundo at the Teatro Jose Peon Contreras in his native Mérida, Mexico. His concert with Ashanti Mundo featured Berklee alumnus and close friend George Robert on sax, Edsel Gomez on piano, Claudio Roditi on trumpet and Tim Crumley on drums. In August 2008 Espinosa presented a concert with the Doctors in Jazz in Avigliana, Italy featuring George Robert on sax, Francis Coletta on guitar, Maria Rusca on piano, Riccardo Fioravanti on bass and Sangoma Everett on drums.
Espinosa was a guest vocal professor for the Due Laghi Jazz Workshop in Avigliana, Italy. In November 2009, Espinosa recorded his first solo album project in New York City. The album features compositions by Espinosa and Alison Wedding with the talented collaborations of Antonio Sanchez, Claudio Roditi, George Robert, Helio Alves, Adriano Santos, Anat Cohen, Romero Lubambo, Darmon Meader, Kim Nazarian, Jacinto Macedo and Alison Wedding.
In July of 2010 Espinosa presented the music of his CD “From Yucatan to Rio” at the Iowa City Jazz Festival together with Helio Alves, Adriano Santos, Alison Wedding, Jim Snidero, Paul Meyers and Tim Crumley. In May 2011, Espinosa and Hendrik Meurkens recorded a CD entitled “Celebrando” together with Antonio Sanchez, Anat Cohen, Alison Wedding, Misha Tsiganov, Mauricio Zotarelli and Jim Seeley.
In March 2012, the group had a CD release concert at the Pella Opera House. The CD was released worldwide in April 2012. In May 2012, the group was invited to participate at the Allegro Convention in Portland, Ore. In November 2011, Espinosa had the opportunity to perform in two concerts with Canadian jazz singer Carol Welsman and in November 2012, Gabriel played two concerts with French jazz singer Cyrille Aimée.
During 2012, the CD “Celebrando” spent 26 weeks in the JazzWeek charts ending at #25 on the list of the best CDs of 2012. JazzTimes, Downbeat, All About Jazz and other jazz websites had great reviews of “Celebrando.” In the summer of 2013, the group performed live shows in Iowa, New Jersey and at Dizzy’s Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center in New York City. The group plans to release a new CD during the fall of 2014.