Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Happy birthday
March 24,  1940

Luis Gasca played in Janis Joplin’s Kozmic Blues Band at Woodstock. That’s why I’m doing this blog piece, but like so many other times in my life, I’ve discovered that that momentous performance is simply one small piece in Gasca’s nearly lifetime of performances.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca


Luis Gasca grew up poor in Houston. His parents made and sold tamales.  Earning a living was first for them. Performing music was not part of the picture, but one day Luis saw two men playing trumpets and he felt something.

By the time he was 15 he was playing gigs and by 16 getting paid to play.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca


By 18 he had a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston and traveled on weekends to New York City and absorbed the music of Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

He was drafted, but afterwards lived in Japan awhile–playing trumpet, of course. Then to Oahu.

When asked about his love of the trumpet, he answered, “”It’s a very demanding instrument…. And I’ll never quit learning it. I got that at an early age: Never let anything slide. I have a hunger and a thirst for music. That love for something, that is the impetus to make you never never quit, to make you give it your all. That love cannot be taught. One has to love the music and the knowledge. I’m 100 % joyous playing music with other masters.”

Trumpeter Luis Gasca


Here’s a wonderful video montage of Janis (mostly),  but some with Luis.

Count Basie and more

One of his greatest achievements was being a part of the Count Basie Band.

In 1969, he released  “The Little Giant” album. on Atlantic. Interestingly, one of the album’s cuts is “Motherless Child” the same song made famous as part of Richie Haven‘s famous Woodstock improvisation of Motherless Child/Freedom as well as the very next song played at Woodstock, Sweetwater‘s cover of the same song.

Gasco’s cover is like no Motherless Child you’ve ever heard:

Trumpeter Luis Gasca


In 1972, Gasca was playing in The Malibus, which became Malo. It had released its first album eponymously named “Malo.” By the way, the lead guitarist in that band was one Jorge Santana. Jorge has a pretty famous older brother by the name of Carlos.

From a WBGO article: “Nena” opens [the album] with a face-grabbing bass riff by Pablo Telez over a driving son montuno with rock rhythm generated by Victor Pantoja (congas), Coke Escovedo (timbales) and Richard Spremich (drums), and a fiery brass intro. Trombonist Ron Murray, famed jazz trumpeter Luis Gasca and organist Richard Kermode are featured.”

I featured the song “Just Say Goodbye” from that album because Gasca co-wrote the song.

Another interesting member of Malo was keyboardist Richard Kermode who was also at Woodstock and also played with Janis Joplin there.

Solo artist

Gasca’s “For Those Who Chant” album cover

Gasca released three other albums: For Those Who Chant (1972), Luis Gasca (1972), and Collage (1976).  And though that discography may seem short, have a Snickers nearby if you’re going to look at his extensive credit list at AllMusic.

Among the names listed are Santana, Van Morrison, and Mike Bloomfield.

For those who want to know, a few guys were on that “For Those Who Chant” album who also had Woodstock connections: Greg Rolie, Mike Carabello, Michael Shrieve, Carlos Santana, and Jose,”Chepito” Areas.

That’s right…most of the Santana band played on the album.

Bob Weir

As mentioned above, Gasca has played for many people [see Allmusic listing]. Among them he played for Bob Weir on his first solo album, Ace.

Gasca played on  “Black-Throated Wind”, “Mexicali Blues” and “One More Saturday Night.”

The Musician’s Life

As sadly happened to many of his generation’s fellow musicians, the lifestyle overwhelmed him and he left music until the 90s.

I stopped (playing) because I was self destructive. I was burned out,” he admitted. “That’s when I knew it was time for me to go.” He came to realize that in order to save the musician, he had to sacrifice the music.

Here he is in 2012 leading an all-star Latin Jazz Big Band – The Mambo Kings on the second night of a three-day Latin Jazz Festival.

Thank you, Luis, for everything you’ve given to our ears.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca