There are types of jazz meant for elevators, and then there’s the good stuff you can pair with your favorite strain of spliff-packing material. But just as you wouldn’t want to match certain foods with incompatible alcoholic drinks, you also wouldn’t want to contaminate your musical palate with corny sounds.
This is especially true when you happen to be high, and your mind is open to different thoughts and ideas; you don’t want things to get weird, in the bad way.
Jazz lends itself well to cannabis and its culture and was of course used for inspiration in many a great recording or jam session, or even to calm nerves prior to a performance. And fortunately for all of us who’ve ever enjoyed the marriage of music and marijuana, a new wave of really great jazz musicians has established itself.
Some of the players who’ve emerged from this scene are recent arrivals, while others have slowly been building reputations and fan bases based simply on their devotion to making good music and letting us hear it.
In service to them, and to connect smokers with the makers of some of this brilliant music, here are a few recommendations.
Drunk, by Thundercat
Mood: Fun, mellow funk
An L.A.-based singer, songwriter, bass guitarist and producer, Thundercat’s name became much more familiar as an artist in his own right after his session work on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.
But if you look through liner notes of albums by some of today’s most respected musical talents—ranging from hip-hoppers like Childish Gambino and Mac Miller to soul singers like Bilal and Erykah Badu—you’ll find him credited.
He uses his unmistakable voice—a perfect-pitch falsetto—to push a proprietary sound of modern, hyperdrive, super-nerdy yacht-jazz that name drops tacos and video games like Diablo, both of which are obvious stoner faves. And though he doesn’t stray far from his recipe, he’s got plenty of range and can hold his own against giants of various musical genres.
You’ve gotta give props to anybody that can hang with both Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald on one song (the soft-sailing song “Show You the Way” on Drunk), and can also use a deep funk bassline to add a new layer of dank to a famous Isley Brothers sample (the drum intro from “Footsteps in the Dark”) on “Them Changes,” which was used by Chris Rock to open his recent Netflix comedy special, Tambourine.
Ruler Rebel, by Christian Scott
Whether he’s playing flugelhorn, cornet, soprano trombone or trumpet, the haunting, airy tone of New Orleans native Christian Scott’s horn is usually easy to identify, yet he’s always fusing new and old styles of jazz.
A prolific performer and studio rat who’s released 12 albums since 2002, he’s got a slew of fans that includes Thom Yorke, Flea, and Prince, who is said to have included Scott in an X-Men-like jazz supergroup he was building prior to his untimely passing (are recordings buried in the vault? A man can dream.).
Within Scott’s sound, there’s a soul-searing wail of world-weariness, set against noises that push and pull against the realities and hard limits established by any and every style of music. His three most recent albums—Ruler Rebel, Diaspora and The Emancipation Procrastination—constitute “The Centennial Trilogy”, in which Scott pays homage to the 100-year birthday of the first commercially released jazz record, “Livery Stable Blues.”
But Scott’s brand of blues gets mixed into what he calls “Stretch Music,” and of the three it is Ruler Rebel that has the feeling of being dropped into New Orleans during a second-line rainstorm, or any sort of party with celebration as well as grief for the promise of a past that led to the rebellious creative minds that lead the way today.
Astral Progressions, by Josef Leimberg
Listening to Josef Leimberg, especially if you like what you hear from trumpeters like Christian Scott, is a mind-blast of a reminder that great musicians can take the same instrument and do amazingly unique things. From the moment Astral Progressions begins, it’s strange in the best way possible, with a vibe that feels as medicinal as the smoke, and as meditative as the mental state that follows.
The album’s runaway hit features Bilal singing an ode of candy-inspired sweet somethings to some lady he’s loving on, and Leimberg is wise enough to use the horn sparingly, just enough to balance Bilal’s uncharacteristically chill vocals with a lush background of rhythm and rhapsody.
“The Awakening” is an excellent musical choice for anyone looking to ignite a good morning through harmonic, outreaching riffs and slow runs, but it’s the album’s third track, “As I Think of You,” that steals the show, thanks to a brain-bending/-feeding lead vocal by otherworldly singer Georgia Anne Muldrow. There’s no better way to describe it than marvelously mysterious.