Multi-Talented Bronx Artist Ibrahim Gonzalez Passes Away

Ibrahim Gonzalez, here with his wife Janet Norquist-Gonzalez in an undated photo, passed away in his sleep last night.

Ibrahim Gonzalez, a longtime Norwood resident and musician who hosted two radio shows on WBAI and dabbled in a multitude of art forms over the years, died in his sleep sometime this morning. He was 57 years old.

It’s still unclear exactly what caused his death. Janet Norquist-Gonzalez, his wife and partner of more than 20 years, said Gonzalez had complained of acid reflux-type symptoms, including chest pains, at about 1 a.m. after they had attended a dinner party and fundraiser earlier in the evening.

But that wasn’t a rare occurrence. Gonzalez had suffered from similar symptoms before and had mild cases of diabetes and asthma that he had dealt with most of his life. When Norquist-Gonzalez woke up this morning, Gonzalez was unresponsive and she immediately called 911. Emergency workers took him to Jacobi Hospital where he was pronounced him dead.

Norquist-Gonzalez, who called Gonzalez the “love of her life,” said the funeral and memorial service arrangements were still being worked out. But the plan was to hold some kind of a service in Harlem, where Gonzalez grew up, and then end up at the chapel in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, near Gonzalez and Norquist’s home on Reservoir Oval East and where he will be buried among some of his jazz heroes.

We’ll post details about the services when they become available.

On his website, (Mambo Dervish was Gonzalez’s alter ego and combined his passions for music and spirituality), Gonzalez answers the question, “Who is Ibrahim Gonzalez?”:

Ibrahim Gonzalez has been keeping his involvements with all of his passions moving along as a total lifetime dedication to self discovery. Whether it be music, photography, radio, writing, composing, teaching or videography, one thing that all of his interests bring him to is communicating. His spiritual journey has led him down the artist’s way and he is perfectly suited for this multi-faceted lifestyle. Some have referred to him as a renaissance man, but the artist prefers to think of himself as someone who is blessed with a love for discovery and is a natural born eclectic.

Here’s a link to a story we wrote about Gonzalez in 2008.

[Video: Ibrahim Gonzalez, playing the congas, performing with the Ibrahim Gonzalez Orchestra, in 2009.]

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24 thoughts on “Multi-Talented Bronx Artist Ibrahim Gonzalez Passes Away

  1. Doris Quinones

    Eclectic indeed. Ibrahim led the band at the Tourism Council’s Bronx Ball for many years. As the former director of the Council,I know that Ibrahim was extremely proud of his contributions to that event. He, in turn, made the Bronx proud at the Ball, playing alongside Bronx Walk of Fame inductees like Hal Linden on clarinet, Ray Barreto on conga, and vocalists like Melissa Manchester, Rita Moreno, the Chantels, Dion, and Ashford & Simpson, to name just a few of the most memorable performances.

    Thousands of people who have attended Bronx Ball galas (or seen the broadcasts on BronxNet) have memories created in part by Ibrahim’s superb arrangements and talent. May he rest in God’s eternal peace.

    Doris Quinones

  2. Brad Learmonth

    I am in complete shock over the death of Ibrahim Gonzalez. He come to our gala at Harlem Stage last night. I hadn’t seen him in ages. We had a very heartfelt reconnection and long talk. He invited me to sit in on his show and talk about my work here. He loved being there to hear Randy Weston play and Roy Hargrove. He was so warm and … UGH! This is crazy! I can’t believe it. My heart is broken open for this loss and sending light for his journey.

  3. Robert

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr.Gonzalez at V.I.P’s cafe here in Norwood several years ago.I remember a man of spiritual tranquility
    who lived his passion and gladly instilled that feeling in others.He shared his passion for music with anyone who would listen,and he did so with such eloquence that you could almost hear the musicians as they played in his minds eye.Rest in Peace,my friend…

  4. Neil Farber

    I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel some years ago on spirituality and radical politics with Ibrahim (he spoke on his Muslim faith, I on my Jewish faith) and spent time with him afterwards. We were the same age and found that we had similar experiences even though we came from different cultures. I found him warm, compassionate, intelligent and full of life. My condolences to Janet and the family, he will be truly missed. Que descales en paz, mi hermano.

  5. Robert Brown

    I had the pleasure and the honor of meeting Ibrahim Gonzalez volunteering for him for his Radio Libre program and listening to Latin Rhythms and Afro Puerto Rican jams at the WBAI offices it’s a hard hit loss for his family and the WBAI family he was full of life and creativity gone too soon Ibby you’re one of kind keep that Mambo Dervish going in the skies up above!

  6. Alberto

    I had the honor of knowing Ibrahim back in 1977 when we played together for the City College of New York Latin Ensemble, under the direction of the great, late Mauricio Smith. Ibrahim played piano and I was the bongo player. Back then, I knew Ibrahim was going to be an awesome talent and he is leaving behind a great musical legacy. He will be missed. Rest in peace, Ibrahim.

  7. GAX

    My heart is heavy over the loss of such a wonderful and talented man. Life is too precious and Ibrahim would have been the first to make sure you knew that. That’s how he lived.

  8. Lucy Aponte

    I was shocked when I heard the news, yesterday. What a gentle man he was. I will miss him, immenseley.

  9. Oscar Hernandez

    Ibrahim was a friend and colleague who i had to pleasure to know and performed with as pianist in his group.He was a very concerned with the integrity of our music as evidenced by his fine work as a radio DJ & host.
    He will be very much missed. RIP Ibrahim.
    My condolences to the Gonzalez Family.

    Oscar Hernandez

  10. Billy "From Hell's Kitchen."

    I was heartbroken and cried over the news of Ibrahim’s passing. As a long time listener and caller into his radio show “In the Moment” who tends to be conservative “Somewhat to the right of Atilla” we used to joke I truly believe it demonstrated his tremendous reach and the scope of Ibrahim’s power that he was able through his incredible heart and genuine warmth of his heart cause me to support his program and a radio station that I disagreed with so much of politically but that I loved to listen to because of the trilogy of Bob Fass, Hugh Hamilton and my absolute love for Ibrahim Gonzalez. I only wish I’d taken a picture of his expression when I attended the WBAI fundraiser at SOB’s this past March and finally introduced myself to him in person. We joked about it on his next program the next day but I let him know that even though we may have argued profusely at times over our political views it did not change or lessen my deep respect for him as a man and one of the fondest memories I will cherish forever is when we were ending that final call out of the blue Ibrahim thanked me for coming to meet him and said ” hey I love you man” to which I told him I loved him too. I will continue to support the station in his memory and THANK YOU Ibrahim…You made this world a better place and in the words of your adored Beatles you taught us to “take a sad song and make it better.” Love you Bro.

  11. Orestes Noda

    Ibrahim indeed was a great man and a wonderful communicator, loved his music and defended it to the end of time.
    Cuando una voz que defendio sus raices calla para siempre, nos duele el alma pero en honor a la verdad hay que seguir el legado de ese ser humano que sacrifico su tiempo y amor por darnos cada Domingo un poquito de su amor.
    Thank you Ibrahim, que Dios te tenga en sus manos.

  12. eddie Palmieri

    From the entire Palmieri Family we are saddened by the loss of a gentle giant. Ibrahim Gonzalez was a sincere friend not only to me but to all the musicians. As a Musician himself he understood that Tradition must be respected and protected. His Radio Program on WBAI was a vehicle to everyone to express there views through Song, Poetry,and Spoken Word. Rest in Peace Ibrahim and our heartfelt condolences to your family. Peace, Eddie Palmieri

  13. Myra

    we are taken by surprise & shocked to hear of Ibrahim’s passing
    as artists and seekers we bonded as friends
    Condolences to to your family
    Baruch Ha Schem … Dear Ibrahim rest in peace
    Myra and family

  14. Danny Serrano

    I met Ibrahim about five years ago when I published a novel called Gunmetal Black and he invited me on his show to talk about it. I did not know what to expect.

    He played some ambient music for a long while to set the mood. Then, without warning, he launched into a dramatic reading of a dramatic chapter involving loss. Of course, the scene had great meaning for me personally as the author. It was the first scene I had ever written, and by then I had lived with it for a very long time. Yet, Ibrahim’s poignant, soulful rendition of my own words did something to me that writing and reading and living that scene in private had never done: it made me cry.

    It takes a special kind of genius to make a man feel his own work again, in such a profound way. I no longer live in NYC, but I know there is a vast community in El Barrio, in the Boogie Down Bronx, all over that city which is feeling the loss.

    My condolences to his family and to those who knew him.

    I appreciate the youtube video of his band doing La Hija de Lola. What a jam. I made Ibrahim smile big one time over a beer, when an Eddie Palimieri tune came on, and I did an impression of my dearly departed old man, who once said, with his deep voice and all the seriousness he could muster, “Toda la musica de Palimieri esta garantiza’.” I see more clearly now what he was smiling about.

  15. Hector Fairley

    Just learned of Ibrahim’s passing. Was shocked and saddened.Had enjoyed listening to his programs on WBAI.Will miss hearing him. InSha’Allah, may he rest in peace.

  16. Andy LaVerne

    Shocked and sadden by Ibrahim’s untimely passing. His multi talents and warm, caring personality will be missed by all who were touched by Ibrahim and his work. Condolences to his family and friends. Rest easy Ibrahim.

  17. Laura Liben

    So sorry to hear of Ibrahim Gonzalez’ death. I loved his radio shows on WBAI. All my sympathies to his family. I will really miss hearing him.

  18. Joel Fass

    I met Ibrahim around 1987-8, when we were both students at CCNY. We stayed friends, and I was a guest as guitarist on his WBAI FM show In The Moment at least 3 times. I also recorded a session in his home studio, but didn’t issue the results. When you went to Ibrahim’s bedroom you saw a wall lined with Afro-Cuban LPs. There must have been hundreds there.
    Ibrahim was a good friend, and recommended me for music teaching jobs. He always had ideas on just about everything.
    I miss my buddy.

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