He visited the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, which he was inducted into in 2017, to celebrate.
Denver resident and bassist Charlie Burrell has long been known as the “Jackie Robinson of music.” While he may not have been the very first black musician to perform with a great American symphony, his employment with the Denver Symphony Orchestra in 1949 absolutely made him a pioneer in this country. He is also one of the last living musicians to play at the Rossonian hotel of Five Points, when the area was a hub for jazz in the west.
Burrell turns 101 on Monday. To celebrate, her family organized five days of tours and meetings; COVID-19 has made it difficult to go anywhere for its 100th anniversary celebration. On Saturday, they made a trip to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, which inducted Burrell in 2017. It was his first trip to the Hall of Fame, so he finally got to see his face on the screen honoring him.
At this time, Burrell’s presence in space is limited to one side of the Red Rocks gift shop. Karen Radman, Executive Director of the Hall of Fame, told us that the organization is planning a larger exhibit to open next spring. During his visit, Burrell brought one of his signature Kangol hats, photos and a handmade wooden bass stand to donate for the upcoming exhibit.
Radman said Burrell’s impact on several Colorado musical stages and breaking the color barrier in classical music made him a âperfect matchâ when it came to selecting him as an inductee.
Burrell has a special connection to Red Rocks, which Radman said she only learned about in recent weeks. When he was young, Burrell performed in a summer evening orchestral series at the Amphitheater. The gig didn’t pay much, so he also had a day job to make ends meet. While many of his colleagues taught music, Burrell took a stand painting the benches at Red Rocks.
âI used a brush and painted 9,000 seats at Red Rocks, from bottom to top. It took me three months, but I did it, âhe said, sitting in one of the original wooden seats, which now line the Hall of Fame space. âIt’s definitely one of the benches. I think he still remembers me!
Burrell may be over a century old, but his sense of humor is still in full swing.
Someone in the crowd around him on Saturday asked him if he liked “today’s” music.
– No, he said categorically. âThis is my philosophy on the music of today and the music of yesterday. I am from yesterday and thank goodness.
Here is a short document we did on Burrell in 2017: