By Brent James
Nestled inconspicuously on 12th Street in West Oakland in a neighborhood known as Prescott (or the “Lower Bottoms” to the longtime residents of the area) is a quaint little building that you will probably miss if you blink. A structure of brick and hardwood and matted red carpets that haven’t been touched since the 1960s, the building standing at 1658 12th Street is the Continental Club – a once a mighty Jazz and Blues supper joint that helped Oakland and the East Bay Area garner the reputation of being the “Motown of the West.” Along with Slim Jenkins’ Supper Club, Esther’s Orbit Room, and dozens of other nightclubs that sprawled along 7th Street, the stages in these rooms once hosted the likes of Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, Etta James, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Ike and Tina Turner, and even Jimi Hendrix. The list goes on and the stories are endless if you’re lucky enough to get some face time with the “old timers” of the area. In this neighborhood, people still say “good morning” and spend many a Summer night on their porches, so that’s pretty easy to do.
By Brent James
Some of our staff have picked out essential albums from Blue Note Records that should satisfy both the purist and the newcomer to go along with Sonos Studio’s brilliant exhibition celebrating the label's 75th anniversary.
A bit about Blue Note’s history: The label was in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis, getting its name from the “blue notes” of blues and jazz, or notes sung a bit lower than the major scale for expressive purposes. Moving from traditional jazz to some bebop (including artists like Thelonious Monk) in the 1940s and hard bop (artists such as Horace Silver) in the 1950s, Blue Note distinguished itself by paying musicians for rehearsals as well as recordings, in order to ensure a better final product. With iconic album artwork by Esquire designer Reid Miles (using photographs of the musician in session, taken by Blue Note’s Francis Wolff), Blue Note made its name as one of the most influential labels in jazz music, later issuing records by free jazz musicians like Ornette Coleman and popular musicians like Herbie Hancock, having records sampled in hip-hop records by the likes of Madlib and, now, seeing massive success with mainstream artists like Norah Jones.
The music world lost another great yesterday with the passing of Texas born blues guitarist/singer legend Johnny Winter who died (Wednesday, July 16) in Switzerland in his Zurich hotel room. He was 70 years of age. While no exact cause of death has so far been announced according to those close to the artist, who was considered among the greatest slide blues guitarist of all time, had not been in good health for a few years - yet still managed to get enough energy to do what he loved - perform the blues to appreciate audiences. The older brother of Edgar Winter with whom he began playing the blues from early in life, Johnny was not just a practitioner of the blues but also long an ambassador and champion of the genre as he supported the careers of such idols of his as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters (see all three together in concert in video down below). In the 1977 Winter brought his hero Muddy Waters into the studio to record Hard Again for Blue Sky Records - the imprint distributed by Columbia specifically set up for the release - followed by two other Waters collaboration albums that would result in three Grammys for Waters.
Jack White, he of many a blues-rock band, broke records this week when it was announced his second solo album, Lazaretto, sold 40,000 copies in its first week—on vinyl alone. That’s the biggest week ever for a single vinyl album since Soundcan began recording vinyl sales in 1991, according to Rollingstone. (Lazaretto also sold 41,000 CDs and nearly 57,000 downloads in its first week.)
To celebrate that achievement, both for White and for vinyl as a medium, which White has publically championed, we’re counting down the best albums written or co-written by Jack White. We’re leaving off those he produced, since there are so damn many of them, as well as Loretta Lynn’s excellent Van Lear Rose, which White produced and played on but only co-wrote one song of, and live releases. Let us know if you agree!
The first album made by White and his friends in The Greenhornes and Brendan Benson is a blast, albeit a green one, sounding like a record quickly made by friends that nonetheless had some gems, including the catchy “Steady As She Goes.”
Opening the Red Bull Sound Select show presented by Amoeba Feb. 27 at The Echoplex will be Isaac Rother & The Phantoms. The band plays a wicked rock 'n' roll inspired by classic blues, classic horror films and novelty monster songs—think "Monster Mash" and "Purple People Eater." Rother plays the star on his album The Unspeakable Horror of..., playing The Phantom, who leads his band through a howling set of Bo Diddley-style blues riffs, surf-rock touches and growling vocals.
The band plays with FIDLAR, the newly announced Cheatahs and Cherry Glazerr at the show. It's $3 with RSVP and $12 without. Doors are at 8 p.m. Check back here this week for interviews with FIDLAR and Cherry Glazerr!
We caught up with Isaac Rother as he moved his project from Olympia, Wash. to right here in Los Angeles with a new lineup.
Most L.A. people are new to your band. What should we expect from an Isaac Rother & the Phantoms show? Or do you prefer people to leave expectations at the door?
Rother: Expect the majestic spell of rock 'n' roll to be cast over thine body. Expect to be transported to a higher plane of existence where one can truly be free to experience the everlasting moment that is now. I want everyone who sees The Phantoms to be uplifted and inspired by the music because that’s what music does for me. Expect to be entertained and expect to have a good time.