was one of the last of Cuba's great Afro-Cuban piano players. Although he had played and recorded with the band led by
, the creator of the cha-cha, for a quarter of a century, he had retired from music by the mid-'80s. Things began to change when
in 1996. The album,
, released the following year, helped to inspire an international fascination for Afro-Cuban music and brought
to the attention of a global audience. His performance on the
made him an international phenomenon. Signing a contract with
, at the age of 78.
Showing great promise, as a pianist, from an early age, González
graduated from the Cienfuegos Conservatoire in 1934. Although he briefly attended medical school, hoping to become a doctor, the lure of music proved unsurmountable. Leaving school, González
moved to Havana to become a full-time musician in 1941. After recording with influential multi-instrumentalist Arsenio Rodriguez
joined Orquestra de los Hermanos, a group featuring Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria
. Following an extended period in Panama and Argentina, during which he worked with tango musicians, he returned to Havana and played with a series of cabaret bands. In the early '60s, González
joined Enrique Jorrín
's band, remaining with the group until Jorrín
's death. Although he assumed leadership of the band, González
was forced, by arthritis, to announce his retirement. He maintained a low-key presence until 1996. During his return, however, González
enjoyed the fame that was long overdue; he released two albums in the U.S, including 1997's Introducing...
and 2000's Chanchullo
. The octogenarian pianist died in December of 2003 in his home of Havana, Cuba.