Colorado Music Hall of Fame Announces 2024 Jazz Class Inductees | Westword

Colorado Music Hall of Fame Announces Mile High Jazz Oasis Class Inductees

"I don't play music to get recognition. I play music 'cause I enjoy playing music."
The late, great El Chapultepec.
The late, great El Chapultepec. Danielle Lirette
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At the annual Five Points Jazz Festival on June 8, Colorado Music Hall of Fame announced its second class of inductees for 2024: the Mile High Jazz Oasis.

Members of this class are El Chapultepec and Jerry Krantz, Greg Gisbert, Eric Gunnison, KUVO and Carlos Lando, Ellyn Rucker and Ken Walker; they will be honored at an October 29 induction ceremony at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom.

El Chapultepec opened in 1933 as a restaurant and bar, but after Krantz took it over in 1958, he turned it into a jazz spot that was soon known around the world, one that never charged admission but attracted international musicians. "It was not fancy; it was not pretentious," says Andrew Hudson, local bassist and entrepreneur. "The cops and the crooks were mixing with the millionaires and the homeless."

Everyone from Mick Jagger to the Police reportedly spent time at the Pec. According to legend, Krantz even turned away members of U2, as some of their guests did not have their IDs. "He didn't know a thing about pop culture, and quite frankly didn't care," says Hudson.

What Krantz did care about was local jazz musicians. Nearly all of the Hall inductees in this class played at El Chapultepec, including Ken Walker.

He remembers playing at the Pec seven nights a week in the ’80s, alongside greats like Charles Thomas and the late Freddy Rodriguez Sr. Those nights were formidable in his growth as a bassist, Walker says.

After many years of filling in with various acts, Walker created his own band, the Ken Walker Sextet, in the late ’80s. Aside from a few sets here and there, the band's lineup has remained the same, touring Australia, Canada and Italy and playing at the Telluride Jazz Festival and Jazz Aspen Snowmass.

Walker's recording debut as a bandleader, Terra Firma, was on the Jazz Week Radio charts for seventeen weeks, reaching No. 13 at its highest, and was No. 6 on the CMJ Radio Music Charts.

After he toured the world, Walker became a music teacher at the University of Denver. His instruction did not end at the doors to the classroom, however; on the rare night that the sextet needed a sub, Walker knew just whom to contact.

"Over the years, I would occasionally hire some of my former students, because they were out playing, and they were getting really good," Walker says.

Walker, now 67, still likes to play, though he's had to go in for dialysis treatment three days a week since 2020 — the same year El Chapultepec closed for good, eight years after Krantz passed away.

"Music has kept me sane," Walker says. "That's what keeps me from just going over the edge with all the dialysis and stuff."

He's taking his induction in stride. "I don't play music to get recognition," he says. "I play music because I enjoy playing music."

In April, Colorado Music Hall of Fame announced the members of the Opera in the High Country class, which includes Central City Opera along with opera singers/professionals Cynthia Lawrence and Keith Miller and the late conductor/artistic director John Moriarty. The Hall will hold its first "destination" induction in Central City on Saturday, June 29; it's being hosted in partnership with the Central City and Central City Opera, and will be held in conjunction with the opening night of The Pirates of Penzance.
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