Just days since the world suffered the tremendous loss of music icon B.B. King, the Rhythm Room's recent addition of a mural featuring the blues great, along with six other legends of the genre, feels especially poignant and significant. The venue has been a go-to spot for live roots and blues shows for more than two decades now and this new artwork only adds to its many soulful charms. In 2010, the club featured one of the murals sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon at spots around central and downtown Phoenix. The beer company's ongoing project gives artists an opportunity to showcase their work around the inclusion of their logo-laden can of brew. Though many PBR's get downed on the regular inside the Rhythm Room's doors, this mural - - sans beer branding - - feels more personable and relatable to the music, itself.
Local artist Curt Condrat is the man behind the mural. A self-proclaimed "music junkie with a preference for music created before the 1980s," Condrat was excited to create something to reflect his own passion for music that could also be shared with the community. Though it took Condrat less than a week to complete it, the project was a long time in the making.
"I actually talked to the Rhythm Room's owner, Bob Corritore, about it several years ago," says Condrat. "This was before the Pabst painting. I just thought the building was the perfect spot for a mural." Years later the two revisited the idea and Curt made an initial design featuring a variety of blues musicians and presented it to Corritore who then made a couple of editing choices, finalizing the mural's final lineup of stars: Memphis Minnie, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, the aforementioned B.B. King, and Big Mama Thornton.
The mural isn't just large in size, it's brimming with expression. It brings together these performers whose creative offerings still continue to move and inspire so many and it honors their accomplishments by highlighting both their depth and joy. At first sight, it's fun and inviting. It becomes more even engaging as you lock into the layers of its historical significance. Owner Corritore couldn't be happier.
"It really is a beautiful statement," he says, "to be able to celebrate some of my heroes of the blues in these larger than life images that Curt created. It's really symbolic of what the Rhythm Room stands for." He goes on to add that it's cool to see lots of band members that are playing at the space taking pictures in front of the mural, often standing in front of their own heroes and favorites.
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A Salt Lake City native, in Arizona since he was 12, Condrat spent a good chunk of his teen years doing lots of street art and graffiti but this is his first mural work in Phoenix. He says he hasn't done much graffiti since he was 19 and just has been focusing on aspects of his life, including a couple stints in college, recently graduating from ASU with a printmaking degree. He continues to work in that medium, as well as in painting and sculpture, and does some design and illustration work, staying artistically busy and well-rounded.
He loves working with aerosols on a grand scale and is excited to do more murals. Curt says the Rhythm Room mural has been really well received and may even be instrumental in getting him some more work. When B.B. King passed away, Condrat posted a picture of the mural in the comment section in a thread on the Bootsy Collins Facebook page and got contacted by a guy in Georgia who expressed interest in working with him. You can check out a variety of his artwork at www.curtcondrat.com.
Update, 10:20 a.m., 5/19/15: This story has been updated to include quotes from Rhythm Room owner Bob Corritore.