Shirley Scott – Blue Seven (1961)

Shirley Scott
BLUE SEVEN
with Oliver Nelson and Joe Newman
1961 Prestige  PR 7376
OJC Reissue OJCCD 1050-2, 2001

1. Blue Seven
2. How Sweet
3. Don’t Worry ‘Bout It Baby, Here I Am
4. Nancy (With The Laughing Face)
5. Wagon Wheels
6. Give Me The Simple Life

Recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on August 22, 1961.

Joe Newman (tp) Oliver Nelson (ts) Shirley Scott (org) George Tucker (b) Roy Brooks (d)

So I was listening to one of James Brown’s early instrumental records from the 60s a few days ago, and it left me wanting to listen to somebody who could actually play the organ.  I ended up reaching for this record, a mellow little number from Shirley Scott.  Usually she played with a leaner ensemble, and this has a nice, fleshed-out sound to it with warm trumpet and sax work from Joe Newman and Oliver Nelson.  Newman’s long muted trumpet solo on Wagon Wheels is an excellent companion on a rainy day like I am having today.  The title track, a Sonny Rollins tune, sets the relaxed blues tone for the rest of the set.  I like Roy Brooks but on this session his touch seems a little indelicate at times: even his hi-hat somehow sounds “heavy” and plodding, even on the ballad Nancy (With The Laughing Face).  On this tune Shirley’s organ sounds so wonderful I feel like I am sitting right next to it watching the tubes glow; it’s redundant to compliment Van Gelder on his recording prowess, but there it is.

A short and sweet blog post for a short and sweet album.

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Charles McPherson – Siku Ya Bibi (Day of the Lady) 1972

 
Charles McPherson
Siku Ya Bibi (Day Of The Lady)


Mainstream Records – MSL 1004, 1972


1         Don’t Explain        
2         Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)        
3         God Bless The Child        
4         Miss Brown To You        
5         Good Morning Heartache        
6         For Heaven’s Sake        
7         I’m A Fool To Want You        
8         Lover Come Back To Me        


    Alto Saxophone – Charles McPherson
    Bass – Sam Jones
    Drums – Leroy Williams
    Guitar – Earl Dunbar
    Piano – Barry Harris


String arrangements by Ernie Wilkins

———————–

This record is a tribute to Billie Holiday, and if it falls a bit short of commemorating her splendor it is really no fault of saxophonist Charles McPherson, a member of Charles Mingus’ ensemble of the time and soon to play on the incredible Charles Tolliver album “Impact.”   There just isn’t any instrument besides the human voice that is capable of emoting at the same level as Lady Day.  And to state the obvious, we’re talking about a very singular voice indeed.  He plays it pretty safe on this record, sometimes overly so, and McPherson is no Lester Young, but it’s still a pleasant and understated homage.

One delight is that the album opens with one of Billie’s own rare compositions, “Don’t Explain.” Some warning bells went off when I first noticed the album has a full string section, seeing as so much instrumental jazz with strings ala Don Sebesky leaves me cold if not actually annoyed.  But Wilkins is up to his task here and gives us more than pop gloss or window dressing, with charts that interact well with the core ensemble, and probably to most stunning effect on this opening cut.  I braced myself for the worst with “God Bless The Child,” as this often-mangled tune is better off left to the original recording for my ears, but McPherson manages to break out of the cliches long enough to even give us a few bars of straight bop.  At the very end of the stately “I’m A Fool To Love You,” the band swings it hard for about thirty seconds before a fade out complete with strings holding their own.  Sam Jones and Barry Harris put in an appearance on this blog a while back on a Sonny Stitt record from this same year, and while they don’t get to shine much here, they do manage to cut loose a little on the two uptempo numbers that close out both sides, “Miss Brown To You” and “Lover Come Back To Me.”  Guitarist Earl Dunbar (any relation to Ted Dunbar? I’m not sure), is kind of a non-entity here and when he takes the occasional solo it’s like he just strolled in from the studio corridor and then fades into the 1970s wallpaper right afterward.  But Barry Harris, who employed McPherson a few times in his own ensemble in the 60s, has  good rapport with the tenor man.  McPherson has a nice way of pushing the melodies up into the soprano range too, without his tone taking on a harsh timbre.   This is not an essential album, but it’s a solid enough one, and seems not to have made it onto compact disc.

Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply, cork ringmat); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; Click Repair light settings; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag&Rename

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Sonny Stitt – Constellation (1972) Cobblestone Records

Sonny Stitt
Constellation

1972, Cobblestone – CST 9021

A1         Constellation     5:00
A2         Ghost Of A Chance     4:46
A3         Webb City     3:30
A4         By Accident     6:42
B1         Ray’s Idea     3:53
B2         Casbah     5:02
B3         It’s Magic     5:11
B4         Topsy     5:35

    Bass – Sam Jones
Drums – Roy Brooks
Piano – Barry Harris
Tenor and alto saxophone – Sonny Stitt

Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair light settings; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – resampled (and dithered for 16-bit) using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag&Rename.

Ira Gitler’s original liner notes say of this music that it is “aeration for the brain and tonic for the spirit.”  And also that “It is the residual harmonic deposit left in the ear which makes you aware of the contour of the sculpted line.”  Ira should really see a doctor about that.

Glancing at the date and album title of this selection, you might be forgiven for assuming this would be a funky soul jazz date.  Far from it, this is a return to Sonny Stitt’s bop roots when he carried the torch for Charlie Parker, from whose composition the album takes its name.  Stitt had made one previous record for the short-lived Cobblestone imprint, “Tune Up”, which is in the same vein and also very good.  But I prefer this one, perhaps largely due to the interplay between Stitt and drummer Roy Brooks, who has a very melodic approach to his instrument.  Stitt retains Sam Jones (bass) and Barry Harris (piano) from the rhythm section of the previous album, with Brooks replacing Alan Dawson.  He made yet another amazing bop record, The Champ for Muse Records (who took over the Cobblestone catalog), adding Duke Jordan and trumpeter Joe Newman, who provided some lively interplay between the horns that this album lacks. But the lean sound of this quartet is instantly charming and every track is a winner (It’s Magic is kind of drippy, but still good).  While the album revisits works from seminal composers like Bud Powell and Tad Dameron, the one original composition on the album is a revelation.  “By Accident” is the proverbial “song written in a cab on the way to the studio”, sort of – I believe the liner notes refer to it as a nameless composition Stitt had been working on that day when a traffic accident delayed his arrival to the studio.  The longest cut on the record, it allows time for some extended solos.  Interestingly, Brooks doesn’t take a solo on the entire record until trading fours with Sonny on the last track, “Topsy.”

Unlike rock and pop music criticism (which is, alas, mostly “people who can’t write, talking to people who can’t speak, for an audience that can’t read”), jazz music criticism has a lot of writers I respect.  I don’t actually know the work of Samuel Chell (below) however, nor do I agree with his dismissal of pretty much all of Stitt’s 60s work, of soul jazz in general, and the typical musically xenophobic attitude common to many jazz fans.  But if you can put that aside his review of this album for its only CD release, paired with Tune Up! and released only in Europe, is pretty accurate.

Tune Up! + Constellation
Gambit
2007

For the better part of the new milennium these two 1972 dates have been the most sought-after Stitt recordings, bringing premium collector’ prices for the out-of-print single-CD compilation of both sessions, Endgame Brilliance (it’s more economical if not practical to locate the two separate LPs on Cobblestone). Though still not available domestically, this latest compilation can be ordered directly from the Spanish distributor (freshsoundrecords.com), with liner notes (in English) written for this new 2007 edition. These were the recordings that opened the eyes of many critics and jazz followers who didn’t know what some of us apparently did: that Stitt had been Bird and more in the mid to late ’40s—the complete saxophonist, formidable pyrotechnician, master of the vocabulary of bebop on all three horns— and that he was still capable of playing that way if not better. The only thing different about these two sessions is that Stitt decided to stop wallowing in the sounds of the late 1960s and beyond: he stripped his horns of the Selmer Varitone attachment, an electronic gadget that had been disguising his majestic sound; he closed the book on his days as a tenor “soul and funk artist”; he bid farewell to the Hammond B3 organ, his primary source of accompaniment throughout the ’60s. In other words, he simply “got mad,” went into the studio, and played glorious bebop—even using both horns played at different tempos on the same tune (“I Got Rhythm”). Contrary to some views, these two sessions are not Stitt’s “best” recordings, but they’re close enough. Most importantly, they inspired others to keep the faith during the long years of funk and fusion, Motown and disco that were to follow.  – Samuel Chell (allabout jazz dot com)

 

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Hermeto Pascoal – Zabumbê-bum-á (1979)

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Hermeto Pascoal
Zabumbê-bum-á
Original release 1979 Warner Brothers
Reissue 2011 – Coleção Cultura / Warner Brasil

A1         Sâo Jorge     2:36
A2         Rede     6:27
A3         Pimenteira     6:27
A4         Suite Paulistana     5:27
B1         Santo Antonio     4:07
B2         Alexandre, Marcelo E Pablo    5:16
B3         Suite Norte, Sul, Leste, Oeste     3:55
B4         Susto     3:03
B5         Mestre Mará     4:28

    Composed By, Arranged By, Producer – Hermeto Pascoal (tracks: A1 to B1, B3 to B5)
Engineer, Mixed By – Vitor Farias
Producer, Arranged By, Mixed By – Hermeto Pascoal

– Hermeto Pascoal / arrangements, piano, clavinet, acoustic guitar, flutes, keyboards, saxophones, vocals and percussion
– Cacau / flute and saxophones
– Jovino Santos Neto / keyboards, clavinet and percussion
– Antônio Celso / guitars and mandolim
– Itiberê Zwarg / bass
– Nenê / drums, percussion and keyboards (6)
– Pernambuco / percussion
– Zabelê – vocals, percussion and acoustic guitar (6)
– Mauro Senise / flute and saxophone
– Hermeto Parents (Seu Pascoal & Dona Divina) / vocals (1 and 5)

Release information

LP: Warner Bros. Records WB 91 018 (Germany), WEA International Inc .BR 36104 (Argentina)
CD Reissue: 2011 “Coleção Cultural” / Livraria Cultura / Warner

————————————

It is often said that Hermeto Pascoal’s music is uncharacterizable.  This is essentially true.  Although you will find his records in the “jazz” section of most record stores lucky enough to stock his albums, he doesn’t always fit comfortably there.  A musical polymath, he can seemingly play any instrument, including many of his own invention.  He may have sat in with Miles Davis (during his most polemical period), inspired Cannonball Adderley and fellow-traveler Airto Morreira, but his music is alternately tightly composed and “free”, drifting easily from fusion-esque readings of regional musical traditions from his native Northeast Brasil, to cacophonous bursts of electronics, found sounds, unorthodox instrumentation or heterodox uses of traditional instruments.  This album, Zubumbê-bum-a, followed his very important and better-known Slaves Mass album from 1977.  It’s possible that this record is more “out” than its predecessor, pushing on his avante-gard tendencies while delving deeper into cannibalistic experiments with Nordestino music and including a fair amount of spoken word and poetry.  The opening track is an idiosyncratic homage to São Jorge, whose place in Brazilian cosmology cannot be overstated – syncretized with Ogun in the myriad Afrobrazilian religion traditions, patron saint of the city of Rio, he is the protector of warriors, he who vanquishes our adversaries whether ethereal or corporal, the slayer of dragons, but the track is uplifting and breeze-worthy.     “Não tem preço não..”  there are vocals from Hermeto and Dona Divina, some of them wordless, some of them Hermeto rambling in his unique way in what might be a private oração to São Jorge –  “a carreira da nossa é isso… cavalho ligeira” … his voice is mixed under the music for the most part, giving his actual words kind of a subliminal, secondary importance.  And I’ll admit this – I have an interview with him that he gave to the famous MPB Especial program, and I can’t follow what the hell he’s talking about half the time in his free-associative jive talking.  Adjectives I’ve often heard in relation to Hermeto, both in Brazil and abroad – “crazy”, “mad genius.”  I’ve seen him perform live, only once, and it tended to confirm this reputation.  The man is a transnational treasure to humanity. But probably a bonafide nut.
With this pleasant trot on Saint George’s steed behind us, the album really takes off with the beguiling “Rede”.  Beginning slowly with spoken word evoking a lazy afternoon swinging (or rather being swung) on a hammock,  and an angular chord progression dominated by Fender Rhodes and flute, developing hypnotically into a crescendo of drums and saxophones dancing circles around the same plodding, angular chord structure.   The song moves almost seamlessly into the next, “Pimenteira.”  This is pretty much full-on jazz fusion in the good sense of that phrase/idea, until breaking down about five minutes into the track into a flute and zabumba jam worthy of the Banda de Pifanos de Caruarú, which lasts for less than a minute before leading back into the main theme.  This is as good a place as any to stop and mention an analogy or comparison I’ve seen about Hermeto: I’ve read comparisons of him to Frank Zappa, which initially made me wince.  This is not necessarily a dis to Frank but simply because I don’t like easy comparisons made out of convenience.  But it sort of stuck in my craw ever since, and tracks like this make me lend it some credence.  This piece wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Zappa’s instrumental albums from his “Studio Tan” era, and in general Hermeto’s sense of fun and levity,  albeit with different cultural reference points, in collusion with an infatuation with musique concrete and avant-guardism make this a more productive comparison than I would have anticipated.  “Suite Paulistana” is performed entirely by Hermeto via layered overdubs in the studio, a fact I would not have guessed had I not looked at the album jacket.  It’s a frenetic, free-music approximation of the chaos and incessant movement of Brazil’s industrial nerve-center, Sâo Paulo, that sounds for all the world like a group of musicians improvising collectively.  How on earth Hermeto managed to record this with overdubs is nothing short of breathtaking, leading to the suspicion that the chaos is actually closely controlled and composed.  More Anglophone comparisons here that wouldn’t be totally off base might be Henry Cow, a group who similarly straddled lines of jazz improvisation, progressive rock, and the avant-garde, but famously lacked any sense of humor. “Santo Antônio” begins with what is essentially an interview fragment with a “Divína Eulalia de Oliveira”, credited with “story and improvising” on the jacket, describing a traditional religious procession probably in the interior of Ceará where Hermeto is from, where a group of people go door to door asking for donations or begging alms on behalf of the saint, asking for kitchen staples, farinha, feijão, arroz, ovos, macaxeira — “Oi dona da casa! Esmola pra Santo Antônio … qualquer coisa pra ajudar..”.  The feast of Saint Anthony is commemorated on June 13, making it part of the month-long series of Festas Juninas that exists with a singularity in Northeast Brazil in ways that it simply does not in the rest of the country.    This track has so much of what is magical about Hermeto.  Its demonstrably ethnographic, musically cinematic, and cut from an entirely different cloth from the pedantic and ultimately xenophobic traditionalism of the Movimento Armorial, for example, who by the mid 70s were the self-appointed guardians of all things “cultura popular” in the northeast.  Hermeto’s eclecticism, his mixture of affection and irreverence, must have been anathema to those people.
This little write-up is quickly becoming ungainly and unwieldy so in the interest of wrapping it up, I’ll gloss over the next three tracks by saying they are bit more tame, by which I mean *almost* accessible in a conventional sense of jazz fusion but still always coming back to the album’s regionalism with fragments of baião mixed in to the stew.  Some nice clavinet on Susto, which ends up with bombastic blasts of atonality at the end which are wonderful.  Another of Hermeto’s skills – diving into atonal waters without alienating the “casual” listener is a pretty unique quality.  Not that Hermeto has that many casual listeners.  In a somewhat circular way the album closes with a experimental “Mestre Mará”, which gives a nod to the music form of maracatu nação (or maracatu baque virado, as distinct from the unrelated form of maracatu ‘rural’ or baque solto), using one of its common syncopated rhythms along with agogô. But this is quiet and pensive, whereas maracatu nação is performed with large groups of drummers whose pulse you can feel in your gut from three city blocks away.  Instead, this quiet and mysterious tone poem seems to deliver us up to a mesa branca in the curtained-off room of a mestre, with the voices of the possessed joining in, suddenly wracked by fits of coughing from the defumação of incense and herbs.  It’s not frivolous that Hermeto is sometimes called “o bruxo.”

———
paragraph from the back album cover:

“A música pelo músico, sem experiências nem vanguardas, apenas música sentida nota por nota, formando arranjos nos quais os instrumento, num só tempo, convivem e são individualmente explorados, escute.”

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The Last Poets – Chastisement (1973)

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The Last Poets – Chastisment
1972 Blue Thumb Records – BTS 39
This reissue, Celluloid Records, 1992

Tribute To Obabi (Ogun) 10:16
Jazzoetry 3:46
Black Soldier 5:56
E Pluribus Unum 4:38
Hands Off 4:05
The Lone Ranger 0:28
Before The White Man Came 3:43
Bird’s Word 6:10

   Artwork By – Jim Dyson
Bass – Jon Hart (tracks: A1, A2, B5)
Congas – Obabi, Omiyinka (tracks: A1, A2, B5), Omonide (tracks: A1)
Cowbell – Alafia Pudim (tracks: A1)
Engineer – Tony Bongiovi
Other [Undefined] – Last Poets, The* (tracks: B3)
Photography – Edmund Watkins
Producer – Last Poets, The, Stefan Bright
Saxophone [Alto] – Sam Harkness (tracks: A1, B5)
Saxophone [Tenor] – Sam Harkness (tracks: A1, A2, B5)
Shaker – Bessermer Taylor (tracks: A1)
Vocals – Monjile (tracks: A1), Okantomi (tracks: A1), Olubiji (tracks: A1)
Voice [Poet] – Alafia Pudim (tracks: A2, B, B5), Suliaman El-Hadi (tracks: A3, B2, B4)
Written-By – Alafia Pudim (tracks: A2, B1, B5), Suliaman El-Hadi (tracks: A3, B2, B4)

Produced by The Last Poets and Stefan Bright for True Sound Communications, Inc.
Recorded at Media Sound Studios, New York City
Manager for The Last Poets: Obawole Akinwole
All Selections: Spoet Publishing Corporation

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I had a request to repost this one, so here it is.  The early work of the Last Poets, like Leroi Jones/Amiri
Baraka, or Gil Scott-Heron, has to be contextualized in the Vietnam era
of post-MLK, post-Malcom X Afrocentricity, anger and indignation, or else any
interpretations you make are going to be as clueless as the kind of stuff they publish on, let’s say, the All Music Guide…  Anyway, the Poets records are ones I listen to
occasionally rather than frequently (in contrast,for example, to Gil’s work), not
so much because of its intensity but because they are more interesting
poetically than musically most of the time.  This record has a lot more
variety than their first two, however, although not as much as the next one, “At Last” which is probably the most compelling to my ears.  The jazz elements in the instrumentation that are only occasionally present here are given pride of place on “At Last” so that also probably explains my predilection for it.   (Unfortunately for “Chastisement” one of those tracks here is “Bird’s Word” which is a bit tediously didactic.)  The opening cut plays like a
long candomblé or santeria invocation, drawing down the blessing of the
Orixás on the rest of the music that follows.  It goes without saying that The Poets didn’t shy away from polemic.  The track Black Soldier questions the priorities of Black men going to fight in a foreign land in the name of a country that was also making war on their own people in the streets, “helping your oppressor oppress another man.”  Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin served as a paratrooper but was discharged for not saluting the flag; he’s sympathetic towards soldiers but thinks their skills could be put to better use at home.  The track is so tightly written, packed with excoriating critique, that it’s unjust to single out single lines.  But when they end the cut by warning that the violence in Newark and Detroit “wasn’t a riot, it was a dress rehearsal for things to come”, it’s chilling enough to make it clear why these guys were in the sights of COINTELPRO.     This album is also
impressive in that, given how much this music is tied in with a
particular place and time, it still sounds refreshingly relevant,
sometimes unnervingly and depressingly so:  listen to E Pluribis Unim
and you might think you’re hearing an anthem written for the Occupy
movement.  A classic, solid record all the way – I just wish they would get around to reissuing “At Last” already.





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Sam Rivers – Dimensions & Extensions (1967)

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SAM RIVERS
Dimension & Extensions

Recorded on March 17, 1967 at the Van Gelder Recording Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
First issued in 1976 on Blue Note BNLA 453 as part of the double album “Involution” (the second half of which is an Andrew Hill session).
Issued as an individual album with the original cover for the first time in 1986 (BST 84261)
CD Reissue is 1998 Blue Note RVG Remaster

1 Precis 5:18
2 Paean 5:23
3 Effusive Melange 5:49
4 Involution 7:12
5 Afflatus 6:25
6 Helix 5:31

Alto Saxophone, Flute – James Spaulding
Bass – Cecil McBee
Drums – Steve Ellington
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Sam Rivers
Trombone – Julian Priester
Trumpet – Donald Byrd

———-

Producer – Alfred Lion
Recorded By, Remastered By – Rudy Van Gelder
Reissue Producer – Michael Cuscuna

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The Earth lost another musical giant when Sam Rivers passed away this week (Dec 26) at the age of 88 years. The man had a long career in which he put out a ton of music of a very high caliber. I lament that I never saw him perform live, particularly as I had the chance once and somehow missed it — I can’t remember what my reason was, but it better have been a good one. Fortunately I’ve been a fan of his records for a long time, and he sure left us a lot of those.

The first music I heard from him were the albums he recorded for Impulse (in particular, ‘Hues’) which were done right at the time when he was a key figure in the loft music scene happening in New York. But he put out so much and on so many labels (Black Saint, ECM, Mosaic, and quite a few smaller labels) it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start. He had the unlucky fortune of getting on the Blue Note roster right before the label was sold to Liberty, and as the release history listed above should make clear (and the liner notes from Robert Palmer and Bob Blumenthal make much clearer), this particular album had a very odd legacy indeed. It was recorded in 67, assigned a catalog number, and had classic Blue Note album cover artwork done for it — only to sit on the shelves for a decade before ever seeing the light of day. When it finally did, it was issued as part of a double album that also featured Rivers playing with Andrew Hill’s group. It was finally issued under the original title “Dimensiosn & Extensions” in the 1980s.

This is exhilarating stuff and it’s hard to see how it stayed under the radar for so long. Driving bass work from Cecil McBee (a frequent sideman for Rivers) under-girds what is at times a wall of brass and reeds (courtesy of Julian Priester, Donald Byrd, and James Spaulding). Rivers is unique for a lot of reasons, one of them being that for someone associated with ‘free jazz’ he probably owes as much or more to Charlie Parker than to Coltrane. There is both intimacy and a certain swing in most everything he touched, and one line Palmer wrote about this album pretty much nails it: “Never has atonality in jazz writing sounded this warm.” He was equally at ease in small trio settings as he was playing in or leading big ensembles. He recent four albums recorded as Sam Rivers and the Rivbea Orchestra are all excellent and leave it very clear that the man was still in full possession of his creative powers and abilities in writing, arranging and performing top-notch stuff well into his 80s.

Rest easy, Mr. Rivers. You will be missed.

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