Oakland has been host to diverse and rich music scenes across its history.

Jazz and Blues

In the early 1900s, jazz and blues followed commerce lines between New Orleans and the Bay Area via rail. Following this line, jazz pioneer Harold Padeo   traveled from rural Louisiana to California via rail in 1908 and settled in Oakland.In fact, the first article to print the word 'jazz' came from the San Francisco Bulletin, and Bert Kelly's historic 'jass band' actually formed when he played at San Francisco's St. Francis hotel before moving to Chicago.2 The Jazz scene gained prominence in Oakland from the  1920s, influenced by Chicago and New Orleans styles brought by waves of workers migrating in to work on the railroads. Early venues for jazz included Pantages TheatreCreole Café,  Musicians Union Club, Sweet's Ballroom, Burma Lounge and the Big Bear Tavern.

Oakland's  jazz scene was strongly influenced by the blues. A number of notable blues musicians and clubs emerged from Oakland. From the 1930s, 7th Street in West Oakland was lined with blues and jazz clubs as a center for African American arts and entertainment (See: Harlem of the West).4 

In the 1980s, a new wave of clubs opened, including Koncepts Cultural Gallery, a non-profit experimental space near Jack London Square (in the Western Pacific Depot building), Kimball's East in Emeryville, The Omni in Longfellow (which played a variety of music) and Escovedo's in Lakeshore (opened by the father of Oakland artist Sheila Escovedo aka. Sheila E.).

Pages tagged “Jazz”



1 D. Vernhetes and B. Lindstrôm (2012).  "Ernest Coycault 1884-1940." Jazz Puzzles (vol. 1). http://www.vjm.biz/163_coycault_web.pdf

2 Gushee, L. (2005). Pioneers of Jazz: the story of the Creole Band. New York: Oxford University Press.

3 Gioia, T. (1992). West Coast Jazz: modern jazz in California (1945-1960). New York: Oxford University Press.

4. Bay Area Blues Society: http://www.bayareabluessociety.net/The_Music_They_Played_On_7th_Street_Project.html; PBS: http://www.pbs.org/brubeck/theMusic/westCoastJazz.htm