East High School, Charlie Burrell to be honored by the Colorado Music Hall of Fame

Burrell, a famed jazz bassist, also holds the distinction of being America’s first black symphony musician.

Charles Burrell at home. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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On Tuesday evening, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame will induct seven people and East High School into its ranks as part of its Jazz Masters and Beyond event.

Included in the mix is Charlie Burrell, famed jazz bassist who also holds the distinction of being America’s first black symphony musician. Burrell told us last year he held a day job polishing the seats at Red Rocks Amphitheatre before he’d don tails and play on stage with the symphony each evening.

Charles Burrell at home. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) music; jazz; five points; history; kevinjbeaty; denverite; denver; colorado
Charles Burrell at home. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Also honored are Earth, Wind & Fire members Philip Bailey, Andrew Woolfolk and Larry Dunn, singer Dianne Reeves (who’s also Charlie Burrell’s niece), guitarist Bill Frisell and bandleader Ron Miles. All of them attended East High, which is why the school is also receiving the commendation.

Chuck Burrell, Charlie’s son, spoke to Denverite on behalf of his 97-year-old father. “He’s just elated that he’s being inducted,” said the younger Burrell. Despite his age, the son said, his father is still “hanging in there and talking the strange stuff.”

Though the elder Burrell no longer plays the bass, his conversation with us last year showed that he’s still full of stories and one-liners.

“This one’s been on our mind for some time,” said interim Executive Director Lew Turner. “The deep roots of this particular genre” in Denver, he said, makes it a particularly special occasion.

The induction comes as Five Points, Denver’s historic jazz hub once known as “Harlem of the West,” struggles with tough conversations around gentrification and business development while the neighborhood’s identity changes with the city’s rapid growth.

Kevin Beaty

Author: Kevin Beaty

Kevin Beaty is a media producer with experience in a variety of settings spanning Hollywood film sets to international backpack journalism expeditions. He is on a never-ending quest to meld artful imagery, functional design and intimate storytelling. His biggest struggle in any given moment is whether to shoot stills or video. Find him on Twitter and Instagram at @kevinjbeaty.