This Friday – April 20, or 4/20 – is a date that’s not going unnoticed by the folks at the Jazz Dispensary label. And the festivities are continuing right through Record Store Day. On Friday, Jazz Dispensary teams with SPARC’s four cannabis dispensaries for a new 7-inch vinyl single, which will be followed on Saturday’s Record Store Day by the release of the 12-inch LP Soul Diesel II.
The annual cannabis celebration 420 falls this Friday, hence the release that day of Private Stock Series # 001 from Jazz Dispensary. This translucent blue vinyl single, limited to 500 copies features two songs associated with cannabis: Bobby Rush’s “Mary Jane” on Side A and Rusty Bryant’s “Fire Eater” on Side B. Both tracks were originally released in 1971. Funky bluesman Rush’s slyly humorous track (“Mary Jane, Mary Jane, can’t you see what you have done? I can’t even find my car and all my money’s gone…”) is set to a smoking groove (pun intended). It was first released on the flipside of his “Chicken Heads.” Bryant’s “Fire Eater,” a hot soul jazz instrumental featuring his sax, Bill Mason’s organ, Wilbert Longmire’s guitar, and Idris Muhammad’s oft-sampled drums, lent its title to Bryant’s 1971 album of the same name. Private Stock Series # 001 is available exclusively at SPARC’s four dispensaries.
On Saturday, the Record Store Day-exclusive release of Soul Diesel II hits independent brick-and-mortar shops, with seven tracks (newly remastered from the analog masters) on two sides of orange swirl-colored vinyl. This volume, adorned with new artwork by Danielle Garza a.k.a. Ellierex, continues the series launched last year which matched music to strains of cannabis.
The selection of cool tracks fusing jazz and soul have been drawn from the Prestige and Galaxy Records family of labels. One of the key figures in the movement, Idris Muhammad, is represented with “Wander” from his aptly-titled 1971 Prestige LP Black Rhythm Revolution! Among his sidemen was Melvin Sparks, who made (the pre-disco) Kool & The Gang’s “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight” his own in a brassy rendition with a band of cats including Idris Muhammad, Grover Washington Jr., Virgil Hayes, and Leon Spencer. (The edited single version is presented here.) Billy Butler’s 1968 “The Twang Thang” lives up to its title, thanks to the guitarist’s nimble picking over a greasy groove in large part anchored by Ernie Hayes’ organ. (Butler and Hayes co-wrote the song, as well.)
While remaining in a soul-jazz bag, the sounds here are diverse. Vibraphonist Cal Tjader continually updated his style from the early 1950s through his final days in 1982, passionately exploring Latin music despite not being of Latino origin. Tjader’s “Mamblues” was a piece he returned to on multiple occasions; his mambo-meets-blues only gained immediacy and urgency when rendered in a funk idiom. Jazz flowed in tenor sax man Gene Ammons’ blood; his father was pianist Albert Ammons. Gene’s 1969 “Jungle Strut,” later covered by Santana, is the sound of freedom after Ammons was released from a seven-year jail term. Another sax great, Rusty Bryant, kicked off his 1973 Night Train Now! LP with “Cootie Boogaloo,” with session veteran Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on drums. Organist and frequent Jerry Garcia collaborator Merl Saunders leads his quintet on the 1969 single version of “Soul Grooving;” the original B-side was a cover of The 5th Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away.”
Soul Diesel II is available on vinyl on Record Store Day, and for those wishing to sample its hip, retro musical strains, it’s also up on streaming sites now!