Most of What You Should Know About Famed Denver Jazz Musician Charlie Burrell, Who Turned 101 Today

Right (or left) here in the Mile High City, famed jazz musician Charlie Burrell turned 101 today, as reported by Denverite:


Charlie was the first African American to be hired by a major American symphony, then the Denver Symphony Orchestra, in 1949. With his charismatic smile, Charlie is a friend to everyone he meets.  


Several years ago, your solitary reporter nominated Charlie Burrell for the Juanita Gray Public Service Award, given annually to a prominent African American in Colorado and especially Denver. Juanita Gray worked at the Ford-Warren Branch of the Denver Public Library at High Street and 28th Avenue in East Denver until her untimely death in 1987. She was a pioneer in Denver, encouraging, especially, Black youth to discover the joy of reading.


Because of his advanced age, the Committee considering the Juanita Gray Award bumped Charlie directly into the Colorado Black Hall of Fame.


To celebrate his 101st birthday, over a period of five days, Charlie has been entertaining his dozens of guests by reflecting on his times playing bass at The Rossonian, a fabled hotel in the Five Points area close to downtown Denver, when Five Points was considered to be the Harlem of the West, with the likes of Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, Miles Davis, and many other famed Black musicians giving concerts to overflow crowds.


Burrell wrily observed that even though Joe Biden is the oldest President of the United States ever, he’s much older, and even more battle-scarred, than Biden.


“Lookee here,” Burrell said, “Mitch McConnell is as cagey as a fox, and he won’t let my friend Joe do anything.”


“But what Joe could do,” Burrell continued, “is go to the Capitol — and he sure does know how to get there — and light a little fire under Mitch’s behind, jump back, and then just see what happens.”