Rocket Bomber - linking to other people's stuff

Links and Thoughts 34: 10 October 2014

filed under , 10 October 2014, 08:05 by

Maynard Ferguson – Chameleon (Herbie Hancock cover)

Good Morning.

“Last year, Jack White’s Third Man Records and reissue specialists Revenant Records released The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records Vol. 1, a doozy of a box set that included 800 tracks from the early days of the Wisconsin label that launched the careers of everyone from father of the Delta blues Charley Patton to a pre-bandleader Louis Armstrong. It was housed in a lovingly constructed oak ‘cabinet of wonder,’ based on the iconic Victrola VV-50, and took cues from the Arts and Crafts design aesthetic prevalent during the label’s beginnings. It included two books, six 180-gram LP records, a thumb drive containing all the music, and all manner of ancillary material. It was the kind of box set that isn’t easily matched, let along[sic] outmatched.
“But that doesn’t mean Third Man couldn’t try.
“It was never a mystery that there would be a second volume. But we weren’t expecting it to be so impressive in such different ways.”
Jack White Just Curated the Ultimate Box Set of Iconic American Music, Peter Rubin, 9 October 2014, Wired []

“Kevin Kelly was an editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Review, the founding editor of Wired, and is the editor of Cool Tools. At this year’s XOXO Festival, he kicked off the event by sharing his approach to making stuff, the real impact of technology on our lives, the benefits of having time, and the benefit of optimizing your life.”
∙ Video at the link and on YouTube; from the description there: “Recorded in September 2014 at XOXO, an arts and technology festival in Portland, Oregon celebrating independent artists using the Internet to make a living doing what they love. For more, visit”
Kevin Kelly Talks About Making Stuff, Finding the Right Tools, and Having Time, 9 October 2014, Tested []

I love this kind of video — really smart people talking about smart things in digestible chunks (10-30min), too short to be considered a ‘class lecture’ but certainly much longer than just the soundbite or 3 paragraph pull-quote (which is what we usually get). That said, there is a danger in these very short introductions — primarily, in that usually just the one narrative (point of view, side of the argument) is presented, and after a TED-like-talk, you can walk away thinking there’s a solution to the problem when in fact we haven’t even finished defining the problem. Read more:

“The key rhetorical device for TED talks is a combination of epiphany and personal testimony (an ‘epiphimony’ if you like ) through which the speaker shares a personal journey of insight and realisation, its triumphs and tribulations.
“What is it that the TED audience hopes to get from this? A vicarious insight, a fleeting moment of wonder, an inkling that maybe it’s all going to work out after all? A spiritual buzz?
“I’m sorry but this fails to meet the challenges that we are supposedly here to confront. These are complicated and difficult and are not given to tidy just-so solutions. They don’t care about anyone’s experience of optimism. Given the stakes, making our best and brightest waste their time – and the audience’s time – dancing like infomercial hosts is too high a price. It is cynical.”

“Perhaps it’s the proposition that if we talk about world-changing ideas enough, then the world will change. But this is not true, and that’s the second problem.”
We need to talk about TED, subtitled “Science, philosophy and technology run on the model of American Idol – as embodied by TED talks – is a recipe for civilisational disaster”; Benjamin Bratton, 30 December 2013, The Guardian []
∙ quote above presented out-of-sequence to give me that wonderful punchline; that’s my prerogative as an editor and fine so long as I do not misrepresent it (and so, the ellipsis and this gloss right here to tell you it’s not quite the original quote)

Three Words:
Star Wars Battlepod

Cities and Citizens:
“Inspired in part by psychogeography theory (which emphasizes playfulness in travel), a group of researchers from Yahoo! Labs in Barcelona in collaboration with University of Torino sought to add a bit of pep to these services. In a newly released paper, they explore how mapping apps could theoretically generate short walking routes that are more beautiful or quiet than standard offerings.”
What If You Could Choose Between the Fastest Route and the Most Beautiful?, Lex Berko, 17 July 2014, City Lab []

Rabbit Hole:
If you follow this next link, be prepared. You’ll lose a few hours.
what are your favorite blog posts of all time?

Tweet by Emily Gould (@EmilyGould), 3:29 PM 9 October 2014 []


Diary entry for 10 October:

If my citations seem especially labored — as in the xoxo-video-on-YouTube-embedded-on-Tested followed by the-editorial-on-TED-at-the-Guardian with the chopped-and-screwed blockquote, above — let me just note two things for you:

1. Yay for citations! Let’s say you saved this post with a ctrl-c,ctrl-v into a text file and didn’t have the hyperlinks—or plaintext link, for that matter—but with the author, date, and source you can certainly google that at some point later.
2. I’m trying — which is more than you get from a lot of folks on the internet.

I also had to figure out a way to cite a tweet this morning. I found some guidance online [] but you’ll note what I settled on does not follow MLA. I like to think I split the difference between repeating what’s in the embedded tweet and giving enough information (and attribution!) to find/read the original. It’s another case of at least trying to accommodate all the readers — web, mobile, touchscreen, read later apps, broken links 25 years from now when someone, gods know who is reading the archived version of this post on’s Wayback Machine, scrapers stealing my content so you’re reading it on a .cz or .ru somewhere and only have the text because lazy scraper didn’t included any images, links, embeds, or context, and all the folks who just click the link while thinking I’m trying too hard to be pretentious.

I am, of course, overthinking it — but that’s what I do best. And maybe I’m being pretentious too, but I *like* the idea of academically rigorous citation in a blog.

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Links and Thoughts 33: 1 October 2014

filed under , 1 October 2014, 17:37 by

Maceo Parker – Shake everything you’ve got

Good Afternoon.

The great thing about link round-up posts is there generally isn’t a narrative through-line to worry about — each post is a stand-alone, so even long delays between posts might as well be no delay at all, really — and raiding my cache for (slightly) older links is also fine, as an old link is still a good read so long as the stories are new to you.

In light of the Ebay/PayPal spinoff and the introduction of Apple Pay, I thought this article was worth revisiting:
“A decade after the idea was first sketched on the proverbial drawing board, Starbucks is poised to finally let its customers order their coffees from their phones. And the company’s plans for building on its wildly successful mobile app don’t stop there.
“The Seattle-based coffee giant, which said in March that more than 14 percent of purchases in its U.S. stores are paid for through its app, will allow customers in one undisclosed geographic test market to start placing pickup orders from the Starbucks app later this year, according to the company’s Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman. This should not be confused as an experiment, Brotman made clear. Starbucks is determined to eventually roll out the technology nationwide, no matter how long it takes.”
Starbucks Has Bigger Plans in Mobile Payments Than Most People Realize, Jason Del Rey, 17 July 2014, Re/code []

“Of course, it has its limits. Testing sewage won’t tell you who’s using, or even how much, Holcomb says. You can’t measure whether the concentration changes over time because more people are ingesting certain drugs overall or because a few people are just ingesting more.
“But it can tell you some things according to Banta-Green — trends over time, for example, or variation by day of the week. Hypothesizing that recreational users partake more on weekends while serious users go all week long can also reveal patterns. And other things, like certain diseases or even medication use, can be measured by sewage as well. University of Puget Sound Associate Professor Dan Burgard has used the practice, often called sewer epidemiology, to study how students use Adderall around exams.”
What Sewers Can Reveal About a City, Rachel Dovey, 1 October 2014, Next City []

“But that’s just it, there’s no incentive to try. Likes breed laziness. Why should a site bust its balls and budget producing exemplary pieces of writing when posting the same, tired, gimmicky viral content will guarantee the good times will never end? There’s every reason to lower the bar, and no reason to raise it. That’s why the content business is where it is. The truly remarkable writing is being carted off into high-brow ghettos like Byliner that can’t even afford to keep an editorial staff together, not to mention the New York Times’ well-publicized financial troubles.
“The Internet media world is a maelstrom of homogeneity. Every site’s editorial mission has become the same: Appease the Facebook user no matter what, even if it means becoming glorified content re-branders rather than legitimate news and opinion outlets, even if it means becoming a carbon copy of a thousand other websites all racing each other to the very bottom.”
The Internet has a content diversity problem, Matt Saccaro, 11 June 2014, The Daily Dot []

Doomed to repeat it etc etc:
“Once upon a time wars were fought for fun and profit; when Rome overran Asia Minor or Spain conquered Peru, it was all about the gold and silver. And that kind of thing still happens. In influential research sponsored by the World Bank, the Oxford economist Paul Collier has shown that the best predictor of civil war, which is all too common in poor countries, is the availability of lootable resources like diamonds. Whatever other reasons rebels cite for their actions seem to be mainly after-the-fact rationalizations. War in the preindustrial world was and still is more like a contest among crime families over who gets to control the rackets than a fight over principles.
“But times have changed, Krugman points out. ‘If you’re a modern, wealthy nation, however, war — even easy, victorious war — doesn’t pay,’ he writes. ‘And this has been true for a long time.’”
Krugman on the Terrifying Reason Nations Keep Waging War subtitled, “War is a huge money loser. So the motive is not greed”, Janet Allon, 18 August 2014, AlterNet []

“Over the last few years, the cognitive science of drawing has begun to receive some serious attention. Previously, researchers had been more interested in understanding the way we appreciate fine art, from Leonardo da Vinci to Jackson Pollock, but far fewer studies had concerned the kind of everyday scribbles we all produce. Yet it seems that our rough sketches do serve important functions. One study has found, for instance, that far from being a distraction, doodling can prevent our minds from wandering into daydreams about the past or future, boosting concentration and memory”
Are we hard-wired to doodle?, David Robson, 1 October 2014, BBC Future []


Today’s Book Recommendation is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; it’s not my recommendation per se (though I have certainly done so many times in the past) — instead, today’s rec comes from C.G.P. Grey:

“I’m going to attempt, for a little while anyway, to make public some of my notes from some of the books that I’ve read. This is partly because people are forever asking what I’m reading, but it’s mostly as a way to try and encourage myself to read both more deeply and more frequently — a target I have been trying, and failing, to hit for all my adult life.” …
“These won’t be reviews, they really will just be some sections of the book with a line or two on why I highlighted them. But I hope that they can give you a good idea of if a book might or might not be for you, and if you should read it yourself. Many non-fiction books can be summarized with a few lines, but Bird by Bird captures, for me, why it still often feels necessary to read the entire thing and why you may want to as well even after reading my notes.”
link to the rest: Book Notes: ‘Bird By Bird’ By Anne Lamott


Diary entry for 1 October:

First, a note on the links: since I am (at least temporarily) linking to some relatively ‘old’ stuff, I’ve switched the formatting a bit — not just a hyperlink, but something closer to the way I cite quotes in my long essays. This isn’t APA, MLA, or Chicago Style (over time I’ve fallen into my own pattern without referencing these, based off of vague 20-year-old memories of MLA and now-ancient high school and college papers) but you’ll note I included the date (for those of you who, for whatever reason, won’t read something unless it’s ‘new’).

Also, for my book recommendations, I’ll be relying on (and linking to) the rich (nigh limitless) trove of book reviews and blogs online, and a bit less on my own personal reading. Indeed, if I get to the point where I’m posting one of these every day, I’d quickly run out of books (or begin to sound like a broken record as many of the books I like are going to be similar to each other, for obvious reasons).

And let me hide this little bit at the bottom of the post: [metablogging] Yeah, haven’t written much for the blog recently and I’m kind of sorry for that but not really sorry and I’m thinking about what to do about that and which direction to go from here [/metablogging]

We’ll both see about that, and what comes next, when it comes.

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Making Books

filed under , 28 August 2014, 14:39 by

I was trying to finish up a draft on paperback publishing and got sidetracked on a research tangent:

Books: From Manuscript to Classroom circa 1920

Oxford University Press and the Making of a Book, 1925

Railway newspaper stand and printing Penguin books in the 1940s

Making Books, 1947

Lithography (1940-1949)

Newspaper Publishing Process: “Newspaper Story” 1950

Learning to Set Type, 1959

Typesetting & Linotype, 1960

How Books are Made & Repaired: “Bookbinders” circa 1961

How a Book Is Made – Episode 6: Printing the Book (uploaded 2013)

The Well-Built Book, Copyright 1998, (but I’m thinking the orig. film is actually 1989-1990)

The Well-Built Book from Dianne Morris on Vimeo.

How Do They Do It? How books are made. (2005-ish?)

Book Printing and Manufacturing- A Guided Tour (uploaded 2012)

Digital Printing, Courier/HP 2011

Courier from Steve Franzino on Vimeo.

Digital Printing, Timson/Kodak 2012

6 minutes to print a book, Espresso Book Machine, Darien Library (uploaded 2011)

How much does all this cost? [for a single-color, 256 page book]

Quantity : Cost : Cost/Unit
5,000 : $10,689 : 2.17
7,500 : $14,255 : 1.90
10,000 : $17,817 : 1.78

This is a summary of costs, excluding shipping.

The manufacture of books — the subject of all those videos embedded earlier in this post — is an amazing technological marvel, and because of all the processes and inputs involved, it seems like the printing of the physical object should be the number one contributor to cost. However, by the time plates are made (or files uploaded) at the printer, the book is already finished. The act of physical printing — of making copies — isn’t as cheap as the act of making digital copies, but the difference is only $2-5.

Professor Henry Rollins

* Blanket NSFW Language Warning For All Clips.

I’d love sit down and take Professor Henry Rollins’s music appreciation course — or anything else he feels like talking about, really. I doubt he’d slow down long enough to teach for 13 weeks, but we might be able to approximate what such a course might sound like.

It took surprisingly little time to find a whole bunch of Rollins clips on YouTube (even sifting for talking clips, not music) but it did take a bit of effort to pare that list down.

Obviously this follows on the last couple of music posts I’ve done (on Punk and Metal) – what impressed me is how often music documentary directors would seek Henry out, and how often what Henry had to say was right on point.

If you don’t have 10 hours to spend listening to Professor Rollins, I’d recommend just the conversations with Amanda Palmer and Pharrell Williams (2 parts) – but bookmark the rest of these for later.

If like me, you enjoy slinging YouTube to your living room TV to play in the background, you may find the “Professor Henry Rollins” YouTube playlist convenient – click, bookmark, or cut&paste:


Henry Rollins: 50 (1hr15min)

Henry Rollins – Live and Ripped in London (50min)

Henry Rollins Uncut from Israel, 2007 (1hr16min)

Henry Rollins & Amanda Palmer, In Conversation at UCLA (1hr34min)

Henry Rollins, author of “Occupants” (Chicago Review Press), discusses the book with Thurston Moore at McNally Jackson NYC on 14 Oct 2011. (50min)

Dinner For Five S04E04 – Henry Rollins, Michael Chiklis, Michael De Luca, Luis Guzman (28min)

Henry Rollins Interview + Spoken Word, Toronto, 1989 (24min)

Henry Rollins at UC Santa Cruz, 1990 (1hr29min)

Commencement: CSU Sonoma, May 23, 2009 (1hr54min; Prof. Rollins gets introduced at 21:30, Henry starts speaking at 22:50)

“Hard Art DC 1979”, Lucian Perkins, Alec MacKaye and Henry Rollins – Politics & Prose Bookstore, 19 May 2013. (29min)

Henry Rollins X Pharrell Williams – Back & Forth (24min x 2)

Dhol and Bagpipe

Other than being an awesome name for a potential pub, the Dhol and Bagpipe represent the stereotypical-chocolate-and-peanut-butter-like-combo that you didn’t know you wanted — that you didn’t know even existed.

Available for weddings! Book early to avoid conflicts.

Bonus track:

The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra


The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra was a group of Hollywood session musicians organized by Frank Zappa in 1967 to record music for his first solo album Lumpy Gravy. Some of these musicians are thought to have worked together in various combinations under the leadership of Ken Shroyer as far back as 1959. However, it was Zappa who gave them the name several years later.

In 1975 Zappa organized another group using the same name which involved a few of the same musicians. This group recorded music for the album Orchestral Favorites. Zappa’s Orchestral Favorites album was not released until 1979.

In 1983 soundtrack music for The Chipmunks was recorded by yet another permutation using the same name but organized without the involvement of Zappa or Shroyer. The last appearance by this later ensemble was on the Who Framed Roger Rabbit soundtrack in 1988.


“In its original incarnation, Lumpy Gravy served as an album of orchestral music written by Zappa and performed by an orchestra assembled for the album. Zappa conducted the orchestra’s performance, and did not perform any instrument on the album. However, MGM Records claimed that the album’s production and release violated Zappa’s contract with Verve Records. Lumpy Gravy was subsequently reedited by Zappa as part of a project called No Commercial Potential, which produced three other albums: We’re Only in It for the Money, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets and Uncle Meat.”
Lumpy Gravy

Lumpy Gravy was Zappa’s 3rd album (following two releases by The Mothers of Invention, of which Zappa was the lead singer and principle madman) but is often cited as Zappa’s solo debut, which is interesting since he plays no instruments and doesn’t sing (content, I suppose, merely to have composed & orchestrated the work, and also conducting the Abnuceals Emuukha ESO in studio).

Full Album (1967 Capitol Records (the version without the spoken word segments)):

Frank Zappa and The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra, September 18, 1975. Royce Hall, UCLA

“Early in 1977, Zappa delivered the master tapes for a quadruple-LP set, entitled Läther, which he intended as his “swan song” for Warner Bros. However, Warner changed its position following legal action from Cohen, and refused to release the album, claiming that Zappa was contractually bound to deliver four more albums to Warner for the DiscReet label.
“During 1977 Zappa created the individual albums Zappa In New York, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites by re-editing recordings from same batch of tapes that made up the 4-LP configuration. After Warner Bros. released Zappa In New York, they told him that he still owed them four more albums. He then attempted to get a distribution deal with Phonogram to release Läther on the new Zappa Records label. This led Warner to threaten legal action, preventing the release of Läther and forcing Zappa to shelve the project. In 1978 and 1979 Warner finally decided to release the three remaining individual albums they still held, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites. As Zappa had delivered the tapes only, these three individual albums were released with no musical credits.”
Orchestral Favorites

Full Album:

While Zappa was experimenting with the Abnuceals Emuukha ESO in studio, and fighting with his music labels in the courts, he was also (not quite simultaneously, of course) recording and touring with The Mothers of Invention:

“The musical content of Freak Out! ranges from rhythm and blues, doo-wop and standard blues-influenced rock to orchestral arrangements and avant-garde sound collages. “ —wikipedia

[edit: this is the better link to the whole album, but it is also a YouTube playlist rather than being a single file. just stick with it.]

Absolutely Free is, again, a display of complex musical composition with political and social satire. The band had been augmented since Freak Out … This album’s emphasis is on interconnected movements, as each side of the original vinyl LP comprises a mini-suite.” —wikipedia

Zappa is notoriously, infamously, and incurably prolific — so I think it’d be best to stop here. Most people are aware of Frank as a pop culture icon but outside of the fanbase I don’t know of many people who’ve actually heard the music. These three albums, Freak Out, Absolutely Free, and Lumpy Gravy — complex, virtuosic, accessible in parts but also challenging — are an excellent place to start. Amazingly, these were Zappa’s first three albums.

I can’t find any mention — other than wikipedia — of a post-Zappa Abnuceals Emuukha ESO. (I’m very much tempted to say the wikieditor who contributed that trivia-nugget, without attribution or citation, is full of it.) Music for Roger Rabbit was composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri, and credited (on the soundtrack released by EMI/Disney) to the London Symphony Orchestra.

However, I’ll take the excuse, flimsy as it may be, to post this track from the Roger Rabbit OST: “Valiant & Valiant”. (We’ll miss you, Eddie.)

Because so many 50th Anniversary specials will be coming up: Getting a handle on the 1960s

the tl;dr – Just go watch Forever Young: How Rock n Roll Grew Up on YouTube (it’s an hour) and then come back if you want to see and hear a little more

Even though I set up a YouTube playlist for this batch, this is much more of a ‘choose your own adventure’ set of documentaries — and quite a bit is only tangential to the music. There is no need to watch all of the videos, and I fully encourage you to check out the whole list (reading this post to the end) before you start clicking on any of the embeds or links. You can easily pick a 2 hour or 3 hour block and save the rest for a rainy day when nothing good is on TV.


When we’re talking about the 1960s, it can be difficult (even for historians) to separate the times from the music. Even after an 8 hour slog through the 60s (mostly by way of the BBC – thanks, Auntie Beeb!) I found myself chasing loose ends on Wikipedia and attempting to digest the whole so I could go back to just enjoying the music again. The 1960s bring a lot of baggage, especially the way the decade has been mythologized in the 40 to 50 years since.

The revolution didn’t start in the 1960s — the hippies’ grandmothers were the first, in the era of flappers, speakeasies, and Jazz (free thesis there, for you grad students). And the music (while fantastic) wasn’t a revolution either: The early Beatles were covering Motown and Chuck Berry; The Rolling Stones played the blues and R&B. [note, note]

The music didn’t magically spring into being in the summer of 1960 when the first of the baby boomers turned 14, the threads (and in many cases, also the musicians) came from the generation before. The music was more evolutionary than revolutionary*, though I appreciate the process and love the eventual outcomes: by the late 60s, we see Lennon/McCartney come into their own as songsmiths, and scores of bands that were inspired by the Beatles, Stones, et al. would go on to record many of my favorite rock albums of the 70s. (It would be negligent as well to ignore the parallel line of Folk music and the singer-songwriters that followed Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger; Dylan was playing in Greenwich Village at the same time the Beatles were playing the Cavern Club in Liverpool and taking jaunts to Hamburg.)

(* The music revolution began on 16 May 1966)

What did change by the 1960s? The new media of Television played a role – and the huge record companies that didn’t even exist until the 50s (the LP was introduced in 1948, the 45 in 1949, the transistor radio in 1954) – and a record number of teenagers (“teenager” as a concept comes from the early 1940s) – the weight and long hangover of the Depression and War finally lifted – and the corrupting influence of the almighty dollar (and pound sterling) as consumer culture firmly took root.

Socially? A large youth bulge poisoned by decades of huffing leaded gasoline exhaust (especially in the cities) is likely enough to explain the revolutionaries. I don’t mean to hand-wave away the 60s: when faced with a collective and international insanity, maybe the only response is a little insanity of one’s own. I also don’t mean to discount the real social change that took place, starting in 1955** and continuing throughout the 60s, but the answer to these large-scale problems needed large scale solutions — solutions often precipitated by protest — but the protests are not the solution. After the (inevitable?) crackdown turns the sit-ins into riots, both sides have lost.

** depending on how you define it; we could argue the 60s began in 1918 with Gandhi.

There is no way to concisely describe any decade and it is folly to try; at best we can fall back on stereotypes and cliché as a sort of universally-understood shorthand for a decade — at worst, we bury the history and real meaning of the times under stereotypes and clichés.


I’m sure this is why the documentary playlist inflated to 8 hours — because there is no easy way to summarize the 60s.

For folks who are much more interested in the Music, I’d stick to watching the first and last videos — the time commitment is only a couple of hours and these two are music documentaries, not documentaries that cover the history that was tied into the music.

The YouTube playlist for the documentaries (in this order):×04aSYCoW10pQ6xc93v

Born To Be Wild – The Golden Age of American Rock | 1960s

(the video above is the first of three parts: if you want to finish that story check out the 1970s and 1980s chapters as well. Each is about an hour.)

“The 60s, The Beatles Decade” from the BBC. Each of the 5 episodes is 45 minutes.

The 60s, The Beatles Decade – Episode 1: Teenage Rebels

The 60s, The Beatles Decade – Episode 2: Sex, Spies and Rock and Roll

The 60s, The Beatles Decade – Episode 3: Swinging Britain

The 60s, The Beatles Decade – Episode 4: Street Fighting Years

The 60s, The Beatles Decade – Episode 5: The Party Is Over

Counterpoint, also from the BBC
Why I Hate The Sixties (59min)
Embedding is disabled on this one, so you’ll have to click the link to watch it on YouTube:

The Sixties – The Years That Shaped a Generation (2hrs)
This video can and likely will be taken down at some point for blatant copyright infringement; the DVD rip that was uploaded even includes the piracy warning. Until such time as it disappears: enjoy. To be fair to PBS, I won’t embed the video here.

Last one — and as I noted at the top of the post, if you only have time for one this might be the most accessible (and will only tie up one hour of your day).
Forever Young: How Rock n Roll Grew Up (BBC) (59min)

Jazz is a performance art.

To me, there is no more faithful “documentary” of music than the live performance. I love the behind-the-scenes stuff, too — and the interviews, people who love music talking about music — but the actual concerts? There is nothing like a live show. If you stop and consider classics like The Last Waltz or Stop Making Sense, the strength of these feature-length, film documentaries is that they point the camera at the stage and don’t look away. The concert is the document.

While the category I file these posts under for the blog is ‘music documentaries’, the draft folder I use is actually titled “Sunday Long” — long clips to share with friends on twitter, which includes both the excellent behind-the-scenes documentaries and also these concerts.


The first video (that led to the search for the others included below) was either James Carter or Medeski, Martin, & Wood. I can’t recall now (6 weeks later) (yes, I have a pretty big buffer for these posts) which of the two I bookmarked first. Each was a pretty solid clip, but there wasn’t quite enough there to hang a whole post on. When I later tripped over the Ray Brown Trio, then I knew I was onto something. I started to assemble a Jazz Fest — not an all-time best-of or top-ten, because honestly I wouldn’t know where to start — but instead a batch of contrasting and complementary live performances that’d fill a whole-day-long playlist and scratch a jazz itch.

If that sounds as good to you as it did to me: all the clips below are in a YouTube playlist — you can have it play in a background tab all day today.

While obviously there are many great jazz albums out there (and we’re all richer for that) jazz is a performance art, meant to be seen and heard live. There is skill is mixing an album, too, don’t get me wrong, and there are many fine albums that one could say were assembled in studio, the whole becoming more than just the sum of each player’s part. The producer is part of the creative process, in addition to the band — if there was a band, and it wasn’t just session musicians working for scale, along with machines, samples, and loops. Good music is good music, regardless of how it was made — the old Duke Ellington quote applies, “If it sounds good, then it is good.”

Much more so than nearly any other form of music, though, Jazz is often a conversation, a form defined in part by improvisation. Not that taking a solo and going off the chart is new — organists have been doing so since at least Bach’s time, and the highlight and one defining characteristic of the concerto is the cadenza — but pipe organ improvisation is almost always the organ in solo performance, and for a concerto cadenza the orchestra gets out of the way, often literally sitting with their instruments in their laps.

A really solid small jazz group, a bass-piano-drums trio for example, might feature all three musicians improvising or otherwise riffing on the chart — not just a feature performer taking a single solo but the whole song, spontaneously generated, live. This can be hard to listen to; some fans of jazz aren’t really fans of 50s bebop for this reason, and later mutations like “smooth jazz” chuck this idea right out the window. But for many bebop is the real jazz, or at least the one branch of modern jazz that has to be confronted and digested, if not accepted.

I’m not a purist – I like a lot of different forms, from ragtime to funk. If you pushed me into a corner, I’d pick the post-war 1940s sound as my favorite, but I also love the stuff coming out of the late 60s and early 70s, as “hard bop” combined the stronger rhythmic feel of R&B with free-rolling bebop and eventually got real funky. Kenny G can go die in a fire.


That’s it for the lecture: lets get down to some music.

[btw – if you get 20 minutes into a set and go, “woah, that’s too weird for me” – just skip ahead 5 minutes. Odds are good the band’ll be back on track. Or just skip on to the next video in the playlist. I won’t be offended. heck, I won’t even know. Not all jazz is the same, and even if you like some of it, not everything will be to your taste. That’s cool, and you learned something, so it’s good all ‘round]

Ray Brown Trio + James Morrison – Umbria Jazz 1993 (53min)

James Carter Organ Trio – Montreux Jazz Festival 2012 (55min)

Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood – Estival Jazz Lugano 2007 (1hr16min)

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Sanremo, Italy 1963 (50min)
[if you want to skip the musician introductions in Italian, cue the video to 4:30]

Chucho Valdes & The Afro-Cuban Messengers – Jazz à Vienne Live 2010 (1hr56min)

Soft Machine & Allan Holdsworth – Montreux Jazz Festival 1974 (58min)

Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, & The Giants Of Jazz – Copenhagen 1971 (54min)

Miles Davis – Montreux Jazz Festival 1986 (1hr49min)
- By 1986, the “Miles Davis Quintet” was at least an octet, and Davis had long since gone electric (for his backing band) and his style was jazz fusion (and funky). Definitely a different Miles than the one you might be familiar with.

Miles Davis & Quincy Jones – Montreux Jazz Festival 1991 (55min)
…when Miles came back to Montreaux in 1991, he was also back to playing more classic material — a return to the songs and his sound from the 1950s. He died less than 3 months later; a recording of the concert performance was released posthumously as his final album.

"By the way, which one's Pink?"

Behind Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (59min)

…Lots of interviews, and covering the recording, the circumstances, the pressure, and even the cover art. Wish You Were Here was both a follow-up to the classic Dark Side of the Moon, and also a postcard of sorts (that’s the title of the album, after all) to former band member Syd Barrett, who had left the band in 1968 amid creative disputes and who also became seriously withdrawn from the world-at-large by 1974.

I personally think Wish You Were Here is very much the equal to Dark Side, and in fact (when given a preference) I usually listen to the two albums back-to-back.

This feature comes to us via TYWKIWDBI (“Things You Wouldn’t Know If We Didn’t Blog Intermittently”, a lovely little corner of the internet) — — do yourself a favor and add Tai-wiki-widbee to your bookmarks or rss feeds.

For those looking for more Floyd after watching the documentary, iTunes awaits, or your local record store if you have one (I need to add more of Floyd’s early, Syd Barrett stuff to my personal collection, and was hard pressed not to drop $50 on this right away) but there is also this largely-unknown gem, Dub Side of the Moon.

“Dub Side of the Moon is a dub reggae tribute to the Pink Floyd album, The Dark Side of the Moon, co-produced by Easy Star All-Stars founder’s Michael G (Michael Goldwasser) and Ticklah (Victor Axelrod).”

The YouTube poster is not the rights holder, and has a lot of balls posting the album in full, so if the video gets taken down at some later date we all know why – but enjoy it for now and consider buying that album, too.

← previous posts          

Yes, all the links are broken.

On June 1, 2015 (after 6 years and 11 months) I needed to relaunch/restart this blog, or at least rekindle my interest in maintaining and updating it.

Rather than delete and discard the whole thing, I instead moved the blog -- database, cms, files, archives, and all -- to this subdomain. When you encounter broken links (and you will encounter broken links) just change the URL in the address bar from to

I know this is inconvenient, and for that I apologise. In addition to breaking tens of thousands of links, this also adversely affects the blog visibility on search engines -- but that, I'm willing to live with. Between the Wayback Machine at and my own half-hearted preservation efforts (which you are currently reading) I feel nothing has been lost, though you may have to dig a bit harder for it.

As always, thank you for reading. Writing version 1.0 of Rocket Bomber was a blast. For those that would like to follow me on the 2.0 - I'll see you back on the main site.



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