The Relationship between Jazz and Weed
Jazz provides a personal listening experience no matter where you are or who you are with. But when a human is in a High Minded state it takes you into its arms and brings you along for the ride and I can now see why it was so prevalent in the 1920’s with Jazz musicians in the underground clubs. This sparked my interest into exploring the relationship between the two.
Ever heard of the term ‘Jazz Cigarette’? That’s what they use to call joints way back when in the underground clubs. But when you think about it, those places of Jazz worship were almost like minimal dispensaries themselves because they weren’t only smoked, but sold to the legends that would pass through. But as the USA made weed illegal state-by-state starting in the 1930’s, weed’s prevalence within the Jazz scene started to drop, but it didn’t diminish completelyThe smoking session musicians would continue to do their thing in the changing room and start to be called ‘the vipers’.
There’s a great story about the legend Louis Armstrong, who is quite known for his love of weed. Sometime in the early 1950s, Armstrong and President of the United states, Nixon, crossed paths at an airport and asked Armstrong to pass through customs with him. Armstrong has quite an ironic surname at this point in the story, as Nixon’s team would carry his heavy luggage across the customs line and due to his status as President, nothing would be checked. That luggage was filled with 3lbs of flower and in case you didn’t know Nixon was the main instigator in the War on Drugs.
As the years have gone by there have been records released about the deep relationship between Jazz and weed and many a story about many musicians smoking. During lockdown I had been chatting to my pal Brian from Grooves Ahead who was telling me about this podcast he was helping out on the sound side of: Tokyo Jazz Joints. At this point I was already in the research stage of looking at all the connections between Jazz and weed, but when a podcast steeped in Japanese aesthetic and tradition within jazz landed on my doorstep I had to reach out.
Tokyo Jazz Joints is an ongoing, audiovisual research project created by photographer Philip Arneill and broadcaster James Catchpole, documenting a rapidly vanishing culture since 2015. Philip and James both lived in Japan for over 20 years and the project’s accompanying podcast shares the many stories behind their pseudo-religious pilgrimage around the unique beauty of Japan's hidden world of jazz kissaten.
There were many conversations to lead up to this point and we are delighted to get our t-shirt collaboration out into the world. With the purchase of the t-shirt you’ll also get a limited edition jazzy highs smoke pack (see below) and TJJ kissa coaster. From 2pm on Sunday the 14th March, you'll be able to cop yours here .
Thank you so much for reading, supporting and sharing and hopefully we’ll catch you for a cigarette sometime in the future.
You can listen to the jazzy highs playlist over on Spotify