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December 12, 2017

From Stuff Smith and Larry Adler to Cab Calloway and Fats Waller, jazz musicians led the way on cannabis-infused tunes, and the Jazz Dispensary pays tribute to this legacy with specially branded vinyl reissues. Jazz Dispensary kicked off the series in 2016 with the Cosmic Stash box set and then introduced the Top Shelf series, which included four new titles for fall 2017: The 3 Pieces' Vibes of Truth, Azar Lawrence's Bridge Into The New Age, Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers' Jungle Fire! and Funk Inc.'s eponymous debut. 

Released in late September, Vibes of Truth and Funk Inc. are funk-centric albums released in 1975 and 1971, respectively. The 3 Pieces recruited The Blackbyrds' Donald Byrd to produce Vibes of Truth, and when it came to guest guitar licks, the trio called Ray Parker, Jr. of future "Ghostbusters" fame. The band's sole full-length album combines jazz, funk, soul and pop vocals, and it remains an underground classic sampled by the likes of Da Lench Mob. 

Meanwhile, Funk Inc.'s 1971 debut features five long-playing tracks sampled by virtually everyone. Case in point, both rapper Jay Z and prog-rockers Yes sampled the album opener "Kool Is Back." Funk Inc., which includes a cover of B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone," initially got panned by critics who resisted the idea of fusing jazz, funk and soul. History, of course, was much kinder to the groundbreaking release. 

Bridge Into the New Age and Jungle Fire! both dropped November 3 to wrap up the year's Top Shelf releases. Jazz saxophonist Azar Lawrence played with the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Muddy Waters, War, McCoy Tyner and Ike & Tina Turner, and 1974's Bridge marked his first of three solo releases in the 1970s. The five-song album ends with "The Beautiful and Omnipresent Love," which Cypress Hill sampled on the cannabis-themed "Spark Another Owl." 

Whereas Bridge marked a new solo start for Lawrence, Jungle Fire! closed a chapter for Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers in 1970 as the band's seventh and final album for Prestige Records. Harlem native Henry "Pucho" Brown led the Latin jazz-funksters who regularly reinvented classics like The Temptations' "Cloud 9" and Gladys Knight & The Pips' "Got Myself a Good Man" (both on Jungle Fire!). When British music fans rediscovered the band in the early 1990s, The Latin Soul Brothers regrouped and things only got better from there: The Chemical Brothers sampled "Got Myself a Good Man" on their 1995 debut and again in 1997 for "Block Rockin' Beats." 

As with all Top Shelf reissues (available here), the titles are pressed on heavy-duty vinyl and limited to 1,000 physical copies each. If you can only pick one new reissue to start, PRØHBTD recommends Funk Inc. for its cannabis-friendly vibes. 

Photo credits: Vahe Abed.

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