Rev. John Garcia Gensel, a Lutheran minister at St. Peter's church in New York City, 1956-1993, was a close confidant and spiritual presence within the New York jazz community. Conducting evening jazz vespers from 1965 until 1993, Gensel was able to develop close ties with New York's jazz musicians and their families. He believed that jazz was the best music for worship because it spoke to the existential nature of the person playing it. Along with conducting his jazz vespers, Gensel also officiated at weddings, baptisms, and funerals for much of the jazz community, including those of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie. Duke Ellington, a close friend and confidant, dedicated part of his Second Sacred Concert, The Shepard (Who Watches Over the Night Flock) to Gensel.
Joe Morgen, described as a fast talking Broadway-beat publicist, was hired by Ellington in 1957 to manage his public relations. Although he was disliked by Billy Strayhorn and perceived by others as graceless and aggressive, Ellington nonetheless overlooked Morgen's weaknesses. In his memoir Music Is My Mistress Ellington wrote, "I think he does a great job. He is an extraordinary individual, and I always say he is a man who doesn't have the tiniest facet of the devious in his makeup". Regardless of his reputation, Morgen proved highly adept at regaining media attention for Duke Ellington's music through features published in publications such as Look, the New York Times, and Newsweek. Phoebe Jacobs, head of promotion for the Basin Street Nightclub, said, "Joe Morgen made all of that happen. He sold everybody on Ellington." Morgen remained loyal to Ellington long after his death by working with his foundation to produce a benefit show and tribute to Duke to help raise money for the Ellington Cancer Foundation.
Fuller Up: The Dead Musicians Directory. Rev. John Gensel, 80, Pastor of Jazz Community' www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/7219/revjohngensel.html.
Ellington, Edward Kennedy Duke. Music is My Mistress. New York: Double Day, 1978. 435. Hajdu, David. Lush Life, A Biography of Billy Strayhorn. New York: Farrar, Strauss,& Giroux, 1996. 166-169.