Writings About Music

Reverend John Garcia Gensel


Rev. John Garcia Gensel, Joe Williams, George Benson and Billy Tayler at Saint Peter's Church

Rereading the inspiring books Vibrations and Upbeat by David Amram the past few weeks.

Rev. John Garcia Gensel, born Juan Garcia Valez, in Manati, Puerto Rico in 1917, was so cool and important for me, too. He was a friend not only to Amram, but also John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus, and many others.

Michael Robinson performing at Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan

Back in 1985, a friend from out of town naively suggested that I give a concert at Saint Peter's Church on 53rd street in Manhattan when we just happened to walk by. She insisted I go inside and ask them, even after telling her they would never agree to it, and soon found myself sitting with Rev. Gensel, who practically instantly gave me the green light, allowing use of the main chapel for no fee, just collecting donations.

Over the next eight years, I gave around fifteen concerts there, including before my compositions were available on recordings, so this really was the only way to present my music for a significant period of time together with radio appearances on WKCR FM, WBAI FM and WNYC FM. I agree with David - what a great man Rev. Gensel was!

Looking back, I believe part of the reason for Rev. Gensel's enthusiastic support was learning how I had recently spent a day with Lee Konitz, a teacher of mine who later became a close friend.


Istanbul and Delayed Response are among myriad Michael Robinson compositions premiered at Saint Peter's Church.

As it turns out, I learned after he left us at 90, how a transformative teacher of mine, Barney Bragin, who taught me the Two-Part Inventions by Johann Sebastian Bach, and introduced me to the visionary Brubeck-Desmond-Morello-Benjamin album, Jazz Impressions of Eurasia, and whose music career included performing with Bunny Berigan, had a mother who was Argentinian.

Thank god for Latino culture and influences in the world!

- Michael Robinson, Los Angeles, August 2018  


© 2018 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and musicologist who has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University.