Genkin Philharmonic
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Genkin Philharmonic

Buffalo, New York, United States | SELF

Buffalo, New York, United States | SELF
Band Rock Avant-garde


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Club Chatter: Symphony of Zappa"

If you happened to be accepted as a music performance major in the University at Buffalo's Music Department, the odds are good you'd be doing a lot more than sitting around in a classroom studying the works of dead guys and discussing them in hushed, reverential tones.

A recent repertoire (stretched across a pair of semesters) by the UB Symphonic Band included works by Gustav Holst, Mozart, Frank Zappa, Thad Jones, Mussorgsky, Strauss and King Crimson.

Take a moment and let that sink in. Got it? Yup. That's a sweet gig, no question. Where else might you be able to delve into the work of such a rich, varied roster of composers?

And earn college credits in the process?

The man behind that ambitious repertoire is Jon Nelson, an assistant professor of music at UB. In addition to his work as teacher of trumpet performance and director of the UB Band, Nelson runs the Genkin Philharmonic, an ensemble that allows the performer/conductor/composer/arranger to indulge his taste for ambitious, complex, multi-idiomatic music - much of it of the variety that has long been wholly ignored by scholarly institutions, when it wasn't being mocked outright.

Nelson had worked with the Meridian Arts Ensemble by the time he launched the first edition of the Genkin Philharmonic in 1999. Long a champion of the brilliant, but oft-overlooked orchestral work of Zappa, Nelson wasted no time working some Zappa into the program. In the liner notes to the ensemble's self-titled CD (available through, Nelson recalls the Genkin's first public performance.

"Genkin Philharmonic had its first big show at the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Evansville, Ind. We started playing for about 700 people. [About] 300 got up and walked out during the first piece."

"I knew we were on to something."

Scanning that recording, it's impossible to avoid a creeping feeling of awe as the ensemble moves with agility, humor, musical poise and grace between the knotty, confrontational harmonies of King Crimson's "Vroom" and the prohibitive melodic lines and athletic rhythms of Zappa's "Echidna's Arf (of You)." That Nelson was able to hip fresh-faced, unsuspecting UB music students to the endless charm of this music is one thing. That he whipped them into shape in a manner that would allow them to play the stuff, and quite well, is another. Clearly, this is a man we're lucky to have in our artistic community.

"It is a tribute to the music within, and to the young players who, when they joined the band, were pretty much lost on the idea," elaborates Nelson in the "Genkin Philharmonic" disc's liner notes. "In time, everyone came around [after much practicing], and contributed some very special performances. This disc is proof that young players are really capable of anything, no matter their technical background or level of musical sophistication."

Amen to that.

Beginning at 11 tonight, Nelson will direct "The Genkin Philharmonic Playing the Music of Frank Zappa," inside Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St.

The formerly all-student ensemble has expanded, and now is comprised of some of the finest musicians in our region, professional, working cats, all. In addition to Nelson, the Genkin Phil includes Steve Basczkowski on baritone sax, Tim Clarke on trumpet, Matt Felski on drums, Tom Kolor on percussion, Jonathan Lombardo on trombone and vox, Bill Louden on keys, Jeff McLeod on guitar, Lazara Nelson on violin and Michael Wagner on bass and vox. The all-Frank program will be rounded out with performances from Fourem at 10 p.m. and Peanut Brittle Satellite following. - The Buffalo News, Jeff Miers (News Pop Music Critic)

"The Genkin Philharmonic: The Music of Zappa"

Frank Zappa made strange, wonderful music, and even though the man never had any formal musical training outside of high-school, part of his work's interesting consistency came from his deep comprehension of musical composition. Though many wouldn't assume complexity from songs like "Why Does it Hurt When I Pee," Zap fans know of meticulous layers of sound that warranted his frequently enormous touring bands, which at times exceeded more than a dozen performers. This has made it awkward for aspiring cover bands, as a standard four or five piece just doesn't do justice to Zappa's more ambitious tunes. The Genkin Philharmonic, however, numbers ten. Originally steaming from the music Department of UB, the Genkin is now made of some of Buffalo's top musicians, including UB faculty and members of the BPO. They are highly trained and take performance very seriously, which is necessary to undertake greats such as "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow." Seriously, it is. Opening for the Genkin will be Fourem and Peanut Brittle Satellite, this Friday (Sept. 18). - Artvoice, Geoff Anstey

"Music of Zappa, Hendrix Taken To Its Complicated Heights"

When you listen to a lot of complex, demanding music over a protracted period of time, it starts to change your expectations. We might be told, and often, that the best a song can hope for is to be catchy, sit at a nice brisk tempo, and appeal to a common denominator of listenership. But then there’s the other stuff. The music that doesn’t bow down to overtly court the listener, doesn’t condescend to some anti-intellectual standard, but rather, demands that the listener rise to meet it at its own level and on its own terms.
Trumpeter, composer, arranger, bandleader and UB associate professor of music Jon Nelson is familiar with music of this demanding strain. He’s spent most of his time since 1982 immersing himself in it. On Friday, he brought the band he leads—Genkin Philharmonic, born of a for-credit music ensemble course at UB — to the Tralf Music Hall for a concert concentrating on the music of challenging American composers of the late 20th century.
Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix, mostly. With a side of Captain Beefheart, thank you very much. Not names that most in the academic world would place alongside, say, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, or even John Cage. But beneath Nelson’s deft hand as an arranger, the music of these two “rock” musicians was presented in a challenging manner. Schooled classical musicians might turn their noses up at the suggestion that Zappa’s “Echidna’s Arf (Of You)” is as profound a piece of music as one of the three movements in “The Rite of Spring,” but they shouldn’t. The best music blurs the lines between idioms and challenges lazy classification schemes. Nelson and his ensemble drove this point home throughout two inspired sets of dense, jubilant, often humorous, just as often poignant music on Friday.
Some of the bravest and most refined musicians to ever have called Buffalo home gathered on stage, as Nelson led the ensemble through inspired readings of some of Zappa’s most challenging material — the dreaded “Black Page,” feared by musicians far and wide for its complexity; a searing medley arrangement that married together “Peaches En Regalia,” “Let’s Make the Water Turn Black,” “Harry, You’re A Beast,” and “The Orange County Lumber Truck”; a pulse-quickening run through “Zomby Woof” among them.
Nelson led the band, and the arrangements were his, but he was not featured soloist on every piece. Saxophonist Steve Baczkowski — music curator for Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center — blew some fabulously “outside” solos during the Zappa selections, recalling Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler in their knotty, textural free-form construction. Trombonist Jonathan Lombardo — Buffalo Philharmonic’s principle trombone since 2004 — deftly navigated the dangerous curves in the music to Baczkowski’s left. Flanking him, Cuban-born violinist Lazara Nelson tore through an avant-garde blues take on Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic.” Trumpeter Tim Clarke blew screaming upper-register solos on a half-dozen tunes.
Bassist Michael Wagner laid down a bottom end worthy of Zappa bassist Tom Fowler, circa the “Roxy & Elsewhere” album, and also handled the vocals for the Beefheart, Hendrix and Zappa material. Drummer Matthew Felski and percussionist Tom Kolor made the immensely complex rhythmic structures sound easygoing and natural, and keyboardist William Louden provided the harmonic color so essential to these arrangements.
The Genkin Philharmonic is simply an awe-inspiring band, one that makes incredibly complex music fun and accessible, while simultaneously living up to that music’s lofty standards. If the opportunity arises to catch one of their shows, you should certainly take it.
Concert Review
Genkin Philharmonic
Friday evening in the Tralf Music Hall.
- Buffalo News, Jeff Miers (Music Critic)


Genkin Philharmonic
8bells Label



The Genkin Philharmonic, a Buffalo (NY) based ten-piece electro - acoustic chamber
ensemble, was founded in 2000 by Jon Nelson at The University at Buffalo Music
Department. Originally conceived as a class at UB, its mission was to provide a uniquely challenging opportunity for students to study and perform contemporary music that draws on musical genres spanning rock, jazz, improvised and classical music.

The current Genkin is made up of professional players, drawing from a diverse pool of musicians in the Buffalo area, its core membership comprised of UB Faculty and alumni. Other members come from the Buffalo Philharmonic, Fisher-Price, and the Hallwalls Arts Collective. This hybrid of top-level classical, new music, and improvising performers, creates a band that offers a dizzying array of styles in concert.

The band gave an historic performance at the 2002 International Trumpet Guild
Conference, and played for sold out crowds Mexico City at the 2003 Condesa Jazz
Festival and the Festival Centro Historico. The Genkin has also been featured at Buffalo area venues including Nietzsche’s, Calumet Arts Café, UB, Fredonia College, and

The band approaches its repertoire from three vantage points.

•Unique arrangements of unusual cover tunes, with special effort paid to recreating the technical virtuosity and musical spirit of the original versions (Jimi Hendrix, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Radiohead).

• Creation of original works, and interpreting works of living composers (Nelson,
Didkovsky, Harnas). These pieces have been written for Genkin, or have been
adapted for the group by the composers.

• Arrangements of works from the Classical repertory that pre-date the invention of electronic instruments (Ives and Prokofiev). These arrangements remain faithful
to the original versions, with respect to the actual written notes.

The Genkin Philharmonic released its self-titled debut CD in 2007, on the 8bells label. The disc features music by King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Charles Ives, Serge Prokofiev, Radiohead, Emil Harnas 2, Nick Didkovsky, and Jon Nelson.