Warning: Avoid El Chapultepec
I'm often asked if there are any good jazz clubs in Denver. I always reply, “No.”
There is a jazz club in Denver. It is called El Chapultepec. It's located on the fringes of the putrescent pond our civic leaders refer to as LoDo, which was born from the revitalization of downtown Denver . LoDo has heralded great development, growth, and shopping opportunities for the type of people who go to health clubs and laugh at homeless children.
Established in 1951, El Chapultepec existed long before LoDo was invented. Once upon a time it was a cozy club in a rough part of town. Any night of the week you could walk in (no cover) and hear stellar music. Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins, and Mick Jagger have all performed there, not to mention a solid coterie of talented local musicians who burn the lamp night after night.
The ‘Pec is small so it has never been easy to find a seat. This used to lend an intimacy to the club; a person could lean against the bar and catch slobber from the trumpet player's spit valve. You were there, inches away from genius; shoving dollar bills into the tip jar, hearing the guys discuss the key of the next tune. And with you in the bar were a few dozen souls who knew how lucky they were to witness the spontaneous creation of brilliance.
Cut to the present, lazies and genitalworms, and I must now IMPLORE you: Stop going to El Chapultepec! The joy is gone. Like a growing bite from a brown recluse spider, LoDo has spread its evil influence to Denver 's last bastion of musical perfection. El Chapultepec is overrun with weasels. They walk by the open door, hear a string bass and mumble, “Wow. Jass. Cool.” Stand outside; phone their friends, “I've found a jass club. Come.” And now, the people who love jazz, the people who have earned the right to drink a beer and tap a foot are being dissolved.
We don't need a herd of cell phone pigs stepping on the toes of the true believers. My dear turds, there are precisely 473 bars in downtown Denver. 472 of those bars are not El Chapultepec. In those 472 you are invited to talk, play pool, watch baseball on the telly, pinch strangers' asses, strip naked, shout whoop-whoop while slapping high-fives, compare nose jobs, count cleavages, complain about the wait staff, discuss stock options, and poke cigars into every orifice on your health clubbed pectorally-implanted bodies. However, once you enter El Chapultepec, I want you to shut your goddamn mouth. If you find yourself enjoying the music (this molten gold of Balthazar) you may stay. If the finest jazz within 200 miles doesn't fill you jaundiced heart with butterflies and popcorn, then TAKE YOUR TART FARTIN' ASS TO THE PURPLE MARTINI.
I've been called a bitter bastard, but believe me, I write this out of LOVE.
Jazz has been misrepresented over the years as a music of great hiptitude, whose players and celebrants march proudly at the front of the flock of social and cultural peacocks. Wrong. Jazz is for geeks. Losers. Society's most reviled pariahs. The jazz lover sits at home and listens to album after album gnawing on chocolate chip cookies, reading Downbeat, squinting his eyes to the beat. Music is his god, his LOVE his great Cosmic Oasis to the exclusion of all things healthy, especially human relationships.
IT'S NOT EAZY FOR A JAZZ GEEK TO LEAVE HIS HOUSE, MUCH LESS PUSH HIS WAY INTO A BAR FULL OF PRANCING SWINEHERDS.
It happens dozens of times a night: a short chubster with horn-rimmed glasses and a wispy goatee pokes his head into the ‘Pec, sees the crowd of zit-chewers, hears the roar of cellophane conversations, and mutters, “I paid for six months of therapy so I could come to THIS?” He turns around, walks to Larimer Square, boot-heels a row of crotch rockets like giant plastic dominoes, and retreats down the street to Netties II where he is slowly transformed into an abusive drunk.
I know a man to whom this happened. His life is now a shambles. His family has forsaken him. His nightmares are haunted by a monster with the head of Charlie Parker, the body of Ella Fitzgerald, and the tail of Kenny G. He can't hold a job. His hair falls out in clumps. He splits blood into his hands and rubs them together to keep warm.
All these horrors descended upon him because a herd of socially elite fungal infections dusted him from his temple of salvation.