Josef Leimberg is one of Los Angeles’ lesser-praised musical stalwarts, but his work over the last fifteen years, as both a producer and trumpeter, has cemented his place within the city’s scene and planted him firmly in the minds of those in the know. One could assemble a mean festival bill from the artists he has worked with: Snoop Dogg, George Clinton, SZA, Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington to name but five, but his musical identity is best discovered through his outstanding solo work. His bandmates sing his praises, likening certain creative methods to those of the great Miles Davis, which is unsurprising given the cosmic fusion sound he has achieved as a result of combining the styles of musicians from different musical cliques.
With Leimberg teasing a follow up to his spiritual, psychedelic debut LP, there’s no better time to delve into the music he has shared and shaped so far. Here’s a five track introduction to Josef Leimberg ahead of his show with the Astral Progressions Orchestra at Band on the Wall on 7th November.
Snoop Dogg – No Thang on Me (ft. Bootsy Collins)
One of Josef Leimberg’s first major production calls came on Snoop Dogg’s 2004 album, Rhythm & Gangsta. He produced and played on a couple of album cuts, but his most telling contributions came on the track No Thang on Me, which features P-Funk legend Bootsy Collins. Leimberg plays the crunchy drum beat, soothing trumpet line and even chimes in with some soulful backing vocals. The track samples the cascading piano and harp element from Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly cut, No Thing on Me, drawing obvious influence from the soul great with its vocal hook. Leimberg’s contributions help to give the cut it’s authentic, retro groove and foreshadow the work he’d later do with another L.A. rap superstar.
Josef Leimberg – Interstellar Universe (ft. Kamasi Washington)
Back when Leimberg was playing on Snoop Dogg’s No Thang on Me, saxophonist Kamasi Washington was right there with him, so it’s fair to say that the pair go back a long way. Washington’s energetic sax playing takes pride of place in this rich arrangement, built around a constantly-modulating chord structure in an unusual yet natural sounding time signature. Two basses interlock: clean, staccato plucks alongside an squelchy funk bass tone, while shimmering percussion, drifting voices, woodwinds and percussion guide the rest of the composition. It’s a stunning piece of work that lays bare Leimberg’s musical vision.
Kendrick Lamar – How Much a Dollar Really Cost
Compton-born rapper Kendrick Lamar was deeply influenced by the music of his home region, so it’s unsurprising that, when making his Grammy award-winning LP To Pimp a Butterfly, he turned to many of the figures that had produced or played on some of his favourite records. Many of the musicians who contributed to Snoop Dogg’s Rhythm & Gangsta: Pharrell Williams, Josef Leimberg and Kamasi Washington chiefly, are involved once again, helping to capture a renewed, jazz-inflected and socially-conscious take on the G-Funk production style. How Much a Dollar Really Cost is a poignant, moving composition from Kendrick Lamar, upon which Leimberg’s trumpet reinforces the simple yet highly effective three note motif. Listed as a co-writer for the track, Leimberg has since reinterpretted it during his live shows, extending the song beyond its four-and-a-half minute run time.
Josef Leimberg – Psychedelic Sonia (ft. Sonia Leimberg)
It’s not often that an artist’s mother is the impetus for their debut studio album (we’re sure plenty are influential in less direct ways, mind you,) but as Leimberg told Boiler Room in a recent documentary short, his mother Sonia more or less instructed him to put his debut album together. The closing track, Psychedelic Sonia, is dedicated to his mother — since deceased — and therefore one of the record’s most personal and intimate tracks. The fourteen-minute epic incorporates his mother’s thoughts on life, courtesy of a field recording around which the track takes shape. The music drifts gently, embellishing his mother’s words and lulling the listener into a state of relaxation and contemplation.
The Sa-Ra Creative Partners – He Say She Say
As with almost all great artists, Josef Leimberg has played on some underground gems. Shafiq Husayn is one of his closest collaborators and it’s on his project with Om’Mas Keith and Taz Arnold as the great Sa-Ra Creative Partners, that Leimberg makes one of his coolest, low-key contributions. With it’s off kilter groove, He Say She Say benefits from some beautiful, rising horn lines, laid down of course by Leimberg himself. It’s a dizzying track, but Leimberg’s tone is clear, bright and incisive, cutting through the mix perfectly.