Writings About Music

Reverend John Gensel

Reverend John Garcia Gensel, Joe Williams, George Benson and Billy Taylor at Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan.


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 in 1992.


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 walked by. She insisted, even after I said 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 7 or 8 years, I gave around fifteen concerts there before my music was available on recordings, so this really was the only way to present my music at the time along with radio appearances on WKCR, WBAI and WNYC. I agree with David - what a great man he was!


Istanbul (1991) and Delayed Response (1989) are among myriad compositions premiered at Saint Peter's Church.


As it turns out, I learned after he left us that a transformative teacher of mine, Barney Bragin, who taught me Johann Sebastian Bach's Two-Part Inventions, 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 writer (musicologist).