If some of his parishioners may have considered jazz to be “the devil’s music”, the late Reverend John Garcia Gensel, a fervent jazz lover and then-pastor of Advent Lutheran Church at 93rd Street and Broadway, thought otherwise. “Well then, why let the devil have all the good music?” was his response. It was at Advent, more than 40 years ago, that he held the first jazz vespers. It is that occasion which will be commemorated there with the opening of the first-ever week-long “All Nite Soul Jazz Festival”.
The service that first evening will also be a special
tribute to the late Ruth Ellington, sister of Duke Ellington. Through her, Gensel and her brother
developed a close friendship that grew to Ellington consulting with him about sacred music. She also played a major role in helping Gensel to establish jazz vespers as well as in supporting his efforts when he brought The Jazz Ministry downtown to Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church at 54th Street and Lexington Avenue, in the Citicorp Building. There it continues to thrive 35 years later.