“The Sunnyside family is grieving today as we have lost our beloved friend and inspiration, the great Jerry Gonzalez,” Sunnyside Records tweeted.
“For over three decades, Jerry has been a constant joy in our lives through his music, his friendship and his undeniable spirit. We will miss him dearly.”
The jazzman, a renowned “conguero” — a player of the tall, narrow conga drum — passed away aged 69 after suffering a cardiac arrest in a fire in his home in Madrid, Spanish media reports said.
A spokesman at Madrid city hall told AFP a 69-year-old man had been transported to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, but was unable to confirm his identity. He reportedly died in hospital.
Gonzalez founded the Fort Apache Band and featured prominently in “Calle 54”, Spanish director Fernando Trueba's documentary on Latin jazz, a genre of jazz with Latin American — notably Cuban — rhythms as played by jazz great Gillespie.
He received several Grammy nominations.
In a tweet, Spain's SGAE society for intellectual property rights said Gonzalez had collaborated with The Beach Boys and also flamenco singers Diego el Cigala and Enrique Morente.
Gonzalez was raised in a musical household in New York's Bronx, with his father singing in various local Latin bands during the 1950s and his uncle playing guitar, according to Sunnyside Records.
He started playing the trumpet aged 12 and later took to the conga in jam sessions on tenement rooftops, in the streets and in parks, particularly Central Park.
He got a scholarship for the New York College of Music and went on to have a prolific career, said his label, which described him as “one of Latin music's most powerful and innovative congueros.”