Sunday, July 16, 2006

El Chapultepec

A Denver dive: jazz in its natural habitat

Location: 1962 Market St, Denver, CO
Phone: 303-295-9126
Hours: music starts at 9:00p

Jazz is a conversation. The best jazz is not just music; it’s a dynamic exchange between everyone present, musicians and listeners. That’s why jazz is best experienced live. Not only can you hear the musical ideas being passed back and forth like a discussion, you can also see the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) expressions and gestures that communicate to the other musicians and listeners a mood or thought.

This is why the best place to hear jazz is in a small dive, and The Pec is the consummate dive. Located one block from Coors Field in LoDo, the whole place is perhaps 16 feet wide and maybe 40 feet deep. From the door a row of booths extends down the right wall to the stage. The bar takes up the left half of the room. The path between is bordered with barstools and is typically packed at slither-room-only levels by 11:00pm. A grand piano dominates almost half the stage. A drum set is crammed in the other corner. Everybody else squeezes in the best they can.

The Pec is essentially a jazz club with a kitchen serving basic Mexican fare lurking behind the back wall of the bar. The food is serviceable. From my perspective it primarily serves as something to keep you occupied if you get there early to get a seat before the crowd shows up. It is a historic location, in operation since 1931, and is the place for visiting jazz (and other) greats to come jam after hours, including Sinatra, Bennett, Fitzgerald all the Marsalis brothers and many others. Even rockers such as McCartney, Jagger and Richards. Rumor has it that owner Jerry Krantz once refused to admit members of U2 because their dates were underage. If you’re into jazz in its natural habitat, this is the place to come, as a little web research will quickly reveal. But don't mind the mentions of a smoky dive. It is still a dive, but no longer smoky. Denver has fallen to the smoking nazis, so you won't walk out smelling like a trash fire.


Shauna said...

I stumbled in here while reading Living with Fred. I just started reading, but I've seen enough of the mysterious character watching the sunset to recognize him from one of my favorite Lyle Lovett songs.

Brad Whittington said...

Good catch. He's based on songs by Lyle Lovett and Guy Clark. And other stuff, too, of course. Pontiac is one of my favorite Lovett songs, along with Nobody Knows Me Like My Baby.

Shauna said...

He's a great storyteller. And so are you, by the way!

Brad Whittington said...

Aw shucks.