Gabriel Espinosa

Gabriel Espinosa

Title: Associate Professor of Music
Department: Visual and Performing Arts
Office Location: Music Building 203
Phone: 641-628-5352
Email: espinosag@central.edu


B.A. from Central College
M.M. from University of North Texas

Areas of Expertise

jazz theory, jazz band techniques, improvisation, applied theory, jazz band, Vocal/Instrumental Combos

About Gabriel Espinosa

Gabriel Espinosa was born in Merida, Mexico. His love of music began at a very young age. With the help of his mother, he began playing the guitar at the age of 6.

By the age of 14, along with his brothers Victor and Patricio, Gabriel performed with their group “Los Deltons,” where he played bass guitar.

In 1976, Gabriel attended Central College, in Pella, Iowa, where he received a B.A. in music. He then attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts where he received a degree in arranging and graduated magna cum laude in 1983. In his last year at Berklee, Gabriel formed the group “Ashanti” along with his friend and classmate George Robert. During that year he played with “Ashanti” in venues all around Boston. From 1984 to 1991 he performed with his group “Ashanti” in Can Cun, Mexico.

In 1992, Gabriel attended the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, where he received his master’s degree in jazz studies in 1995. While studying at UNT, Gabriel was also a part of the UNT Jazz Singers. Along with his studies Gabriel produced several albums for Mexican artists, including Armando Manzanero.

Gabriel returned to Central in 1996, where he became director of jazz studies. He not only directed the jazz band and taught private music lessons, but also started the “Vocal Combos” music program, which has been very successful. In 2004, Gabriel became the director of the Latin American Ensemble at Grinnell College. With his return to Iowa also came the return of his band “Ashanti.”

In the years that followed, “Ashanti” recorded three albums, which include “En Fuego,” “Sin Fronteras” and “Dyos Bo’otik,” as well touring in venues all over the Midwest and Mexico. Ashanti has had many guest musicians, including Alex Acuña, Anat Cohen, Gil Goldstein and Dave Samuels, among others.

In January 2008, Gabriel celebrated his 40 years in music. On Jan. 7, 2008, Gabriel had the opportunity to present his band “Ashanti Mundo” at the “Teatro Jose Peon Contreras” in his native Merida, Mexico. His concert with “Ashanti Mundo” featured Berklee alumni and close friend George Robert on sax, Edsel Gomez on piano, Claudio Roditi on trumpet and Tim Crumley on drums.

In August 2008, Gabriel presented a concert with the “Doctors in Jazz” in Avigliana, Italy, featuring George Robert on sax, Francis Coletta on guitar, Maria Rusca on piano and Sangoma Everett on drums. From Aug. 31 to Sept. 3, Gabriel was a guest vocal professor for the “Due Laghi Jazz Workshop” in Avigliana, Italy.

Gabriel recorded his first solo album project in November 2009 in New York City. The album features compositions by Gabriel Espinosa and Alison Wedding with the talented collaborations of Antonio Sanchez, Claudio Roditi, George Robert, Helio Alves, Adriano Santos, Anat Cohen, Romero Lubambo, Darmon Meader, Kim Nazarian, Jacinto Macedo and Alison Wedding.

In July 2010, Gabriel presented the music of his “From Yucatan to Rio” CD at the Iowa City Jazz Festival together with Helio Alves, Adriano Santos, Alison Wedding, Jim Snidero, Paul Meyers and Tim Crumley

In May 2011, Gabriel and Hendrik Meurkens recorded a CD entitled “Celebrando” together with Antonio Sanchez, Anat Cohen, Alison Wedding, Misha Tsiganov, Mauricio Zotarelli and Jim Seeley. In March 2012, the group had a CD release concert at the Pella Opera House. The CD was released worldwide in April 2012. In May of that year, the group was invited to participate at the Allegro Convention in Portland, Oregon. In November 2011, Gabriel had the opportunity to perform in two concerts with Canadian jazz singer Carol Weslman and in November 2012, Gabriel played two concerts with French jazz singer Cyrille Aimee.

In 2012, the CD “Celebrando” spent 26 weeks in the JazzWeek charts ending at #25 on the list of the best CDs of 2012. JazzTimes and Downbeat had great reviews of “Celebrando” as well as other important jazz websites like “All About Jazz.” In the summer of 2013, the group performed live shows in Iowa, New Jersey and at the Dizzy’s Coca Cola (Lincoln Center) in New York city.

In March 2014, Espinosa and Merukens recorded their new production “Samba Little Samba.” The CD came out in October 2014.

Gabriel was awarded a recipient of the Hall of Fame by the Greater Des Moines Community Jazz Center in Des Moines, Iowa, in October 2014.

In November 2014, Espinosa presented de music of his new CD “Samba Little Samba” at the Festival de la Cultura Maya in Merida, Yucatan Mexico.  In January 2015, Espinosa and Meurkens presented a concert at the Tucson Jazz Festival.

Gabriel and Hendrik Meurkens had a CD release at the Iridium in New York City on Aug. 2, 2015. They also performed at the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival on Nov. 26, 2015.

Gabriel presented a concert with Antonio Sanchez and Anat Cohen at Grinnell College in February 2016.

In October 2016, Gabriel released his fourth solo CD, “Songs of Bacharach and Manzanero” with special guest andnine-time Grammy nominee Tierney Sutton. The band had a CD release concert in Merida, Mexico, on Jan. 19, 2017. The group also had a CD release at “Noce” in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 9-10, 2017.

On Feb. 1, 2018, Gabriel and Tierney presented their project in Kauai, Hawaii.

Gabriel released his fifth solo album fall of 2018: Gabriel Espinosa “Nostalgias De Mi Vida” with special guest Kim Nazarian. Gabriel and Kim presented three concerts in Iowa in February 2019. In January 2020, the project was presented at the JEN Conference in New Orleans.

Gabriel plans to return to the recording studio during fall 2022. Some of the special guests on this project will be Kim Nazarian, Fred Hersch, Misha Tsiganov, Mauricio Zottarelli, Anat Cohen, The New York Voices and others.