The migration of African diaspora from Venezuela to Trinidad throughout the 1800 -1900s brought a variety of song styling such as joropo, waltz, aguinaldo, rhumba, cha cha cha, galeron, estribillo as well as numerous polyphonic West African drum traditions. A second generation cuartro musician by the name of Domingo Gomez played in a traveling Parang band in the cities of Trinidad like Sangre Grande and Lopinut. He settled with his wife Gertrude, and their four children Lucillle, Gene, Anthony, and Edmund in northeastern town of Arima.
On November 10th, 1910 his son Edmund John Gomez was born. John Gomez or Johnny would accompany his father to many musical performances often sitting on his shoulders playing a homemade bamboo flute and cuartro. It was here he learned to how to improvise around of a plethora of musicians: singers, drummers, percussionists, violinists, and guitar players all playing in the latin style. He would eventually take up an interest in the woodwind family of instruments, so much so that many local bandleaders such as Ansel Rene Savory and Sonny Denner took him under their wing, properly teaching him both the tenor saxophone and clarinet. From there he moved on to playing in the horn section of the Desmond Durham Band along with another up and coming saxophonist Cyril Diaz.
By the late 1940 and 50s, Johnny Gomez made a name for himself as a top tenor man, gathering a group of hand-selected talent to be one of the first bands to record for Aubrey Christopher’s KAY Records. He would also play live on the popular Radio Trinidad show “Sunday Serenade” along with the in house band Felix Roach y Los Muchachos.
In 1956, while traveling on Solomon Hochoy Road with the J.G. Band to a gig in Princes Street, his life was almost cut short due to an head on collision with a drunken motorist. The instruments, especially the rather large grand piano came loose upon impact killing several musicians riding with him at time. Among the deceased was his sax player Bernardie, and a piano player known as Chungah Singh. Surviving the accident was drummer Sonny Serrette and alto sax player Harold Skinner. It would be almost two years before he would record again with his newly formed Johnny Gomez Orchestra and by then his relationship with Kay had ended.
In 1958 he was approached by label owners and composers Emory Cook, Vita Angel, and Nelson Caton to record his latest compositions. From 1954 -1965 he was able to put out twenty or more titles and two LPs. With Vita Angel’s “Vitadisc Label” he recorded the Caribbean Fiesta LP which in its entirety was an ode to the several styles of Caribbean music at the time such as beguine, rhumba, samba, and merengue. His extremely rare and only Cook LP titled “Nights at the Normandie” features Johnny in his full element recording with a top class of musicians at the time like trumpeter Eroll Ince, pianist Cecil Reyes, guitarist Carlisle Eversley, alto Frankie Francis, bassist Reynold Millette, and bongo player Martin Albino. This LP was recorded at Hotel Normandie in a live setting by Emory Cook. He also recorded for composer Nelson Caton’s vanity imprint “En Cee.”
Johnny Gomez passed away in 1981, Easter Sunday, after a long bout with brain cancer. He left behind a legacy of aural innovation that lasted generations. His sons Noel, Micheal, and Gabriel have become great musicians in their own right playing with the top bandleaders of Trinidad such as Ed Watson, Joey Lewis, Choy Aming, and Gemini Brass.
released June 2, 2017
Liner Notes by Martin Albino, Sir Ramases, and Gabriel Gomez (Son of Johnny Gomez)