Music has played an integral part of the life of Kenneth R. "Gino" Goss since he was a boy growing up in North Little Rock.
"I was surrounded by a lot of good musicians at a young age and I thank God for it," he says. "They made their instruments sing."
He enjoyed listening to the marching band for the former Scipio A. Jones High School. With aspirations of being a drummer, he decided to make some music of his own."I used to play on two white buckets," he says, adding that the school's band director, Frank J. Boyle, heard him one day and asked if he'd like to play with the band. "And that was my first time really getting into music."
Later, as a student and band member at Arkansas AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), Goss' musical repertoire broadened. He gained a mentor, Fred Fuller, "who made me love blowing the trumpet," Goss says. "So my parents went to the pawn shop and bought me an old raggedy horn."
Fuller played the old horn and made it sound like a million-dollar instrument, Goss says. He told Goss: "You can do it too, but you've got to practice." Goss took that advice to heart.
Now 62, the jazz trumpeter, flugelhorn artist, Latin percussionist and producer has been a multiple winner at the Indie Music Channel Awards for three consecutive years. Nominated in 14 categories this year, Goss won Best Male Jazz Artist and Best Jazz Song for "Loosing My Way." Last year, out of 10 nominations, Goss won four: Best Jazz Song, Best Jazz Recording, Best Jazz Video and Best World Male Artist. In 2012, he was nominated for six awards and won four, including Producer of the Year.
Goss -- whose music can best be described as smooth jazz meets world music -- has just released a new album, Shake Your Boom Boom.
CUTTING HIS TEETH
While in college on a music scholarship, Goss played with various rhythm and blues and jazz bands.
"That's when I started to learn showmanship and to express [myself]," he says. "When you [were] playing your instrument back in the old days, you had to dance and play."
He went on tour with a Little Rock band, Portrait. Other Arkansas bands he played with include Rock City Band and Ultimate Groove. He also knew, and played with, the late jazz pianist Art Porter Sr. and the late jazz saxophonist Art Porter Jr.
He remembers taking Art Jr. to a Grover Washington concert in Pine Bluff.
"I couldn't even get him to sit down," Goss says. "He [pretended to play] every note Grover played. He made Grover look at him." And later, they had a chance to go backstage. "He talked about Grover all the way home."
Goss' first venture with a nationally-known band was a two-year stint with the Westside Band from Minneapolis; Goss joined the group after they won TV's Star Search in 1986. He spent about two years with the band.
While in Minneapolis, he met Prince and The Time. "They were hot then," Goss says. He also met other noted singers and musicians -- Rick James, Teena Marie, the Dazz Band, the Gap Band, Earth Wind & Fire, Cameo and the Bar-Kays -- and opened shows for some of them.
Eventually, Goss decided to put his thoughts and feelings down on paper and started to write music for himself. "I started learning how to enjoy my musical journey." In 2008, he embarked on a solo career as Gino Goss and Jammajazz, a five-piece band he formed in Sacramento, Calif. In 2009, he released his first album, Almost Famous.
"I started writing and I was trying to fit in," he says. "I was trying to just ... develop my own style, which was sort of tricky, because you can go so many different ways with the production of a song and how you interpret it. So I just started letting my cosmic energies flow." His musical journeys may take a listener to China, India or Brazil, then back to America for jazz, blues, funk.
Goss "wanted to be adventurous like Miles Davis. That's why everybody still loves Miles Davis."
As a jazz artist, Goss says he has been most influenced by such jazz trumpeter greats as Davis, South African Hugh Masekela ("Grazing In the Grass") and Freddie Hubbard.
HERE AND THERE
Goss divides his time between Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, performing as well as producing music for other independent artists. Among his own work, Goss' favorite is a toss-up between "Kalimba Dreaming," which he wrote for his grandmother, Sula Arnold, and "Night in Rio."
Goss' aspirations include being nominated for a Grammy Award. "That's what I'm shooting for," he says. "Some dreams do come true and you've just got to believe. I pray a lot and I know the Lord will make a way out of no way."
The musician is grateful for his Arkansas upbringing.
"I was fortunate to be around some great musicians -- most of which were unsung heroes of when I was growing up," Goss says. "I'm truly blessed to have played with so many different musicians from all over. ... I've got a lot of those artists' feelings in my music ... and their vibes."
Goss' music is available at GinoGoss.com, iTunes, CD Baby, Spotify, Live365 Internet Radio Network (live365.com) and other online platforms.
Style on 08/03/2014