Various Artists

The Ultimate 30's and 40's Reefer Songs

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It's long been known, even by many who aren't connoisseurs of either jazz or marijuana, that the wacky weed was referred to on numerous occasions in jazz and blues music in the 1930s and 1940s. This compilation brings together 20 such vocal jazz cuts from 1932-1945. Two things might immediately surprise those who chance upon this CD. First, the references to "reefer," the slang word for pot, are often not mere allusions but quite direct, what with titles like "The Reefer Song," "Reefer Man," "Sweet Marihuana Brown," "Save the Roach for Me," "Weed Smokers' Dream," "Reefer Head Woman," and "Smoking Reefers." Also, these aren't all artists working at the commercial margins by any means, the disc including contributions by Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Sidney Bechet, Chick Webb, Jazz Gillum, and Tampa Red. However you feel about reefer, the music is a good helping of exuberant early vocal jazz with a comic edge, and not just enjoyable for its novelty value. Which isn't to say there isn't much in the way of high-spirited frivolity here, with Calloway's "Reefer Man," the Cats & the Fiddle's "Killin' Jive," Stuff Smith & His Onyx Club Boys' "Here Comes the Man with the Jive," Trixie Smith's "Jack I'm Mellow," Andy Kirk & His Twelve Clouds of Joy's "All the Jive Is Gone," and Tampa Red's "I'm Gonna Get High" particularly adept at capturing that speakeasy atmosphere.

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