Monthly Archives: October 2013

Van Morrison: Royal Albert Hall: 30 October 2013

Van Morrison has just been granted the freedom of Belfast- but he’s had the freedom of my home and hi fi for more years than I care to count.

I’d never seen him live prior to this evening as I’d always been put off by his reputation for temperamental behaviour. I’m delighted to report that I saw an artist at his very best, enjoying the company of those he was playing with and the audience.

Playing at London Bluesfest 2013, Van eased himself into his set with a series of blues standards, before bringing on Chris Farlowe to trade verses on a couple of songs. A mid-set highlight was St James Infirmary. This was the first time I’ve heard this sad song of loss and regret with something like a true expression of emotion.

There was sufficient time for a great rendition of Into the Mystic, Moondance and Jackie Wilson Said before Chris Farlowe returned for Stand by Me and Gloria closed proceedings.

I’m pleased to have seen a great performer tonight.

Tonight’s performance merits a strong 8/10

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Out of This World: Kenny Burrell

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Every so often an unexpected gem is discovered.

This magnificent album arrived the other week as a makeweight purchase in with another LP which I tracked down on eBay. When I was looking for something to add to my purchase of Yusef Lateef’s Detroit Latitude 42 30 Longitude 83, I hit on this. Kenny Burrell’s credentials as a jazz guitarist are out there for all to see (nearly 100 albums to his name) and it is great that he is still with us. In all the time I used to play tenor sax (very badly), I had never listened to Coleman Hawkins, although I was aware of him as an early great. I had long wondered about his legendary sound. Shame on me! This LP would give me the opportunity to rectify that. If it was a good listen, that would be a bonus.

First released in 1962 on the Prestige Moodsville imprint, and originally entitled Bluesy Burrell, my copy was re-released in 1968 with the new title, Out of This World, and a fresh cover. This pairing of Kenny Burrell, 31 years old at the time and Coleman Hawkins then aged 58 brought together two extremely proficient musicians.

The band etc:- Kenny Burrell (guitar); Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax); Tommy Flanagan (piano); Major Holley (bass); Eddie Locke (drums); Ray Barretto (conga). Recorded 1962 by Rudy Van Gelder at Rudy Van Gelder Studio. Sleeve Notes (Re-release edition): Chris Albertson. Cover art: Irving Riggs. Cover Design: Don Schltten. Re-released as Prestige 7578.

The track that you need to hear lives at the end of Side 1. Without further ado- Montono Blues brought to you courtesy of grooveaddict on You Tube.

This would have been the opener on many a set. Here it just makes me go ‘Wow, wtf is this!’

What of the rest of the set? Tres Palabras (Three Words- guess which three, it isn’t too hard) is a Latin ballad played on acoustic guitar with plenty of evidence of Hawkins’s robust reedy sound and an elegant solo from Tommy Flanagan. Coleman Hawkins sits out the next two tracks. No More is a short solo guitar piece while Guilty is a much recorded American standard, a version of which by Al Bowlly is featured in Amelie– a great French film from 2001. Then its time for Montono Blues. Its got the feel of Green Onions several years before Green Onions was written. The bass player sings a dialogue with his bass and it sounds as though a bow is used. Coleman Hawkins plays low down and funky. It gets my hips swaying and my fingers clicking. I would love to see a good jazz dancer or two hoof it to this. A wonderful track.

Side Two’s I thought about you is essentially a duet between Hawkins and Burrell while Out of This World is a bit polite but showcases interplay between Kenny Burrell and the percussion. Finally, It’s Getting Dark gets us out of the bar and on route to the edgy night town jazz club of your imagination. Actually, I’ve never been to an edgy jazz club- I’m not sure if they exist in unsanitised form anymore (please advise us all if you can recommend one).

So there you have it. A makeweight purchase (once the initial US postage and the packaging has been paid for, an extra album in the parcel will only add its purchase price plus another couple of dollars to the postage) but I want to tell all my friends about it and encourage them to track it down and buy it.

My copy is vinyl, on the Prestige label, sounds wonderful, is near mint and cost me less than a fiver. The original Moodsville release (Bluesy Burrell) is likely to cost a fair bit more but has a superb abstract art cover that you can find on Google. I want to listen to more Coleman Hawkins- any recommendations? Don’t forget that you can sign up for email notifications of new posts on this site below.

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A short quiz- Are YOU DownWithIt!

All of the answers are on this site. Find out how many of the 10 questions you get right.

No prizes but if you score…

10/10. Reward yourself with a near mint first pressing of Blue Mitchell’s ‘Down With It!’

7-9. Track down and buy yourself a copy of Don Wilkerson’s ‘Preach Brother’

4-6. Get yourself The Incredible Jimmy Smith’s ‘Home Cookin’ on CD

0-3. Purchase and listen to ‘Kind of Blue’, ‘Blue Train’ and ‘The Sidewinder’ and come back here for daily detention.

A short fun test to see what you have picked up from the Downwithit site.

Which founder member of The Jazz Crusaders leads the current touring band?

 
 
 
 

What is the name of Nile Rodgers 1959 Fender Stratocaster guitar?

 
 
 
 

The most extraordinary track closes Side 2 of Freddie Roach’s ‘Soul Book’. What is its title?

 
 
 
 

Who played tenor sax on ‘Six Pieces of Silver?’

 
 
 
 

How did drummer Donald Bailey travel to the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival?

 
 
 
 

Which American TV series opened with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band taking part in the first ‘Second Line’ parade after a disastrous flood?

 
 
 
 

Who played the vibes on ‘Mode For Joe’?

 
 
 
 

Blue Mitchell’s ‘Down With It!’ Features a track which mentions a civil rights march. What is the name of the track?

 
 
 
 

Who wrote the sleeve notes for Blue Mitchell’s ‘Down With It’ LP?

 
 
 
 

Which of the following is credited on this site as a highly respected influence?

 
 
 
 

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Jazz Crusaders: Ronnie Scott’s

Time certainly flies by. About 40 years ago, on a visit to London, I discovered Dobell’s record shop on Charing Cross Road and bought two jazz albums. At that stage I was starting out and wasn’t digging back into the past. They were both contemporary releases and very much at the soul end of the spectrum. Hollywood by The Crusaders was one of my purchases and I enjoyed it very much. I still do.

Over the years I have probably had countless opportunities to see The Crusaders in various incarnations. One way or another it never happened and it was only on Thursday night that I saw them for the first time.

It would be extremely cheeky of me to expect the full classic lineup with Wilton Felder and Joe Sample in the intimate luxury of Ronnie Scott’s, so I was happy to settle for Wayne Henderson’s excellent touring band.

They were funky, very funky! They even made second song, Three Blind Mice sound funky!

Maybe it was because they were in the UK that they played a very sensitive version of Eleanor Rigby which showcased Brian Price on guitar. He’s a Londoner- from London, Canada and plays with a delicate touch, getting right down the fretboard and spinning an intricate solo.

Next we were told there was a special treat. Polly Gibbons, chanteuse with the support band was brought back to perform Street Life. She’s a good singer with a great vocal range and I got the idea that even Wayne Henderson, who must have played this thousands of times, thought that she brought something fresh to it. Well done Polly.

The hits continued with Always There, which always makes me think of an imagined night in an Essex soul mine (being honest imagined ones are the only Essex soul nights I’ve ever been to. They are based on poorly recalled but seemingly legendary depictions of The Goldmine in Canvey Island from those Blues and Soul magazines I used to read as a teenager. Perhaps those are the best ones though). This featured a masterful bass solo from Derek Murdoch.

Finally, it was time for Way Back Home aka ‘The Anthem’. There’s a great version of this on an earlier post on this site- make sure you take a look. This was the track that got me into jazz in the first place. I loved the Junior Walker covers (both the vocal and the instrumental) and it was seeing a version by the composer on Hollywood that led me to part with my two quid- or whatever the album cost. There are some tracks that dredge up deep and sweet feelings- not necessarily linked to finite memories and this is one that does it for me. A great tune.

Regulars will know about my dislike of bitter critical remarks in the style of Leonard Feather. As an ex-saxophonist, albeit one who couldn’t really blow his own way out of a paper bag, I am wary of criticising pro-players. I know what I like though. That is why my personal jury remains out on Paul Russo. However, he is a brave player who performed very expressively and freely at times and who wasn’t afraid of blowing a soprano sax in public, which few do with much credit. I will listen out for more from him.

Drummer Tony Ward was the baby of the band but was absolutely solid and the aptly named Bill Steinway was superb on keyboards.

All in all, another great night at Ronnie Scott’s: which is an essential stop if you enjoy music (although if you are entertaining on the company credit card and just want to chat to your clients, please go elsewhere on the nights I’m in).

I’m starting to rate gigs from here on and this one gets a strong 7/10. Thanks Wayne!

I’m aware that I’ve veered towards soul jazz in these early postings but I’ll not be neglecting other strands. So please come back often and leave your comments. If I don’t like what you have to say, I’ll set the monstrous reincarnation of Leonard Feather loose on you.

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…he moved to France, after which he was not heard from again.

The Soul Book Cover

‘…and they lived happily ever afterwards’ isn’t a conclusion to the Wikipedia entry for any of the great jazz musicians of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that I have ever seen. OK we are not visiting the land of fairy tales here anyway but you will probably be well aware of numerous stars who died at an early age, often in sad circumstances. In the case of Freddie Roach, it seems to be a case of moving from the USA to Europe and staying far away from the limelight. The few short biographies that I have seen tend to end along the lines of ‘…he moved to France, after which he was not heard from again.’ A little bit more digging discloses that he spent a few years in Paris and Bob Blumenthal’s notes written when taking ‘a new look at Ike Quebec’s Heavy Soul session for the RVG Edition records the year of his death as 1980. The notes to So Blue so Funky, a Blue Note Hammond organ compilation album released in 1991, even state that Freddie enjoyed a second career as a movie actor but I haven’t been able to trace anything about this yet.

It’s sad that his career is now thought of as little more than a footnote. I like the way Freddie plays the Hammond although many reviewers feel obliged to damn him with faint praise. I’m not quite alone in my appreciation. There is another, perhaps unexpected, fellow enthusiast in Freddie’s army. The oftentimes acerbic Leonard Feather described him as ‘…one of those rare organists whose taste and techniques are capable of keeping pace with one another’. Well done Leonard!

I first heard Freddie Roach playing a track entitled Brown Sugar (same title but different from the one recorded by the Rolling Stones) on So Blue, So Funky. Born into a musical family, Freddie started with tentative steps at the age of 8 when he started to play church organ. Although he gained a place at the Newark Conservatory of Music, he left after one term to play professionally, eventually jamming and playing solo at Newark’s Club 83, before being engaged by Ike Quebec to play on the two late 1961 sessions which resulted in Heavy Soul and It Might as Well be Spring. After that, he was signed by Blue Note and recorded five LP’s as leader before releasing a further three albums on Prestige.

Although we will return to the Blue Note sessions in due course, it is his first Prestige set The Soul Book that I’m starting with. This album came my way almost by default. I had successfully bid on ebay for his better known Blue Note recordings Mo Greens Please. Postage and packing from the USA starts off from a steep entry level of about $16 but the additional charge for one or two additional LPs is then miniscule. The seller also had a copy of this album which was going for a song, so I added that on the off chance that it would be good. It was (and that was made all the sweeter by subsequently seeing a copy in a West End record store priced at over ten times what I paid)!

Without further ado, here’s a track from YouTube courtesy of groove addict, One Track Mind, which opens the second side of the album

Freddie wrote his own sleeve notes for at least three of his albums including Brown Sugar and Mo Greens Please (although Blue Note regular Nat Hentoff penned those for the Good Move set). He says: “One Track Mind is dedicated to those who like to dance. It is geared for soulful shufflin’.” There’s great support from Buddy Terry on tenor sax and guitarist Vinnie Corrao. Although I hit a blank with Freddie Roach’s own biography, a brief internet search indicated that Buddy Terry was active and was still playing as one of the Newark Jazz Elders in 2009, while Vinnie Corrao is also still gigging. Jackie Mills, the drummer had a long and varied career before finally passing away in March 2010.

The most extraordinary track closes side 2. Entitled The Bees, In the words of Freddie Roach “…so named because of the resemblance to the flight of the hive. And The Bees buzzing off in their search for the sweet honey.” There’s a blistering R&B sax solo, although it gets a bit ragged towards its conclusion. Meanwhile, Tenderly is a great fast paced stretch-out for the whole band and a potential set closer that would demand an encore. It is a track that calls on soloists to get up and show what they can do and saxophonist Buddy Terry certainly did it here.

The Soul Book is well worth tracking down. If anyone out there knows anything more about Freddie Roach’s life and career, the floor is yours. There’s lots of space for comments.

The band etc:- Freddie Roach (Hammond organ); Edlin (Buddy) Terry (tenor sax); Vinnie Corrao (guitar); Jackie Mills (drums). Recorded 13 -28 June 1966. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Cal Lampley. Sleeve Notes: Freddie Roach. Cover photos: Ronnie Braithwaite. Cover Design: Don Schlitten. Issued as Prestige RE 7490.

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Nile Rodgers and ‘The Hitmaker’ are reunited

Although DownWithIt is primarily about jazz, if you look at Influences- Respect due you will read that I was encouraged to start this blog up after hearing Nile Rodgers speak about his life while he was publicising his recent biography.

Nile has played on most of his compositions on his 1959 Fender Stratocaster guitar, which is aptly dubbed ‘The Hitmaker’ because of the many, many great records he has made with it.

Earlier this week, while distracted and in a rush, he left it on a train. We’ve all been there and experienced that icy cold feeling after losing that manuscript, that laptop, that ticket to Man United away! You should read about his nightmare and its happy ending here.

http://www.nilerodgers.com/blogs/planet-c-in-english/2873-today-i-experienced-real-fear

I’m delighted that you recovered ‘The Hitmaker’ Nile.

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Six Pieces of Silver: Horace Silver

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Why should I bother with this? It’s 57 years old! Quite simply because Horace Silver and a select group of other New York musicians broke the mould. They created a new sound- ‘Hard bop’. Stealing the words of my mate Matt ‘They had something to say!’ Stealing from Gilles Peterson- Talking Loud, Saying Something! Adding my own view- Playing Great, Sounding Ace! And..although the sound is superb, Rudy Van Gelder, recorded this and other classics in his mum and dad’s front room in Hackensack, New Jersey.

The band etc:- Horace Silver (piano); Donald Byrd(trumpet);Hank Mobley (tenor sax); Doug Watkins(bass); Louis Hayes(drums). Recorded 10 November 1956. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Leonard Feather. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 1539.

The Music:- This great session was recorded some 57 years ago (at the time of writing). I’d like to be able to write that this was one of the first Blue Note sets that I heard and that its excellence paved the way to other things. That wouldn’t be true. I bought it on an RVG series CD last weekend but I haven’t stopped listening to it since although all of the musicians seem like old friends from other outings. I think, in part, I didn’t buy earlier because I was put off by the front cover. This, in my view, is far from Francis Wolff’s best picture or Reid Miles’s most striking example of his adventurous design.

The playing sounds so fresh and the performers so disciplined. There’s no sloppiness here. Remarkably, the average age of the five musicians was a shade under 24 with 28-year-old Horace Silver being the oldest of the bunch by two years. Silver and Art Blakey were part of a tight group of New York based musicians who developed the ‘hard bop’ style of playing, drawing on the blues, gospel and R&B. Horace Silver’s own influences were diverse. Richard Cook writing in ‘Blue Note Records, The Biography’ identified how Silver had ‘…absorbed an unusually wide range of music’. His mother had sung gospel in church, he listened to Latin bands and to blues records from the previous two decades, which Cook notes as surprisingly unusual listening for a young man in the 40’s. He had worked with Stan Getz in 1950 and had befriended Lou Donaldson and Art Blakey soon afterwards.

Cool Eyes is a lively opener with Hank Mobley delivering the first solo and offering up a run that shows he had listened very closely to alto genius, Charlie Parker. Shirl is an engaging ballad with Silver playing in a trio of piano, drums and bass.

Camouflage is a great funky gospel-tinged tune with 3 solos near perfection in under four and a half minutes. Take a listen courtesy of koastone on YouTube

Enchantment closes side one of the original LP with a Latin feel. Of course with the CD format it is not necessary to stop what you are doing to flip the disc and Senor Blues follows immediately. This is the tune that caught the attention of the multitude, as the album’s standout track. It got so much play that it led to Horace Silver putting together a working band to tour the clubs. It was later re-recorded as a 45 rpm single and with a vocal, both of which appear on the RVG CD. rogerjazzfan has uploaded to YouTube for your pleasure.

Virgo dashes along with some space for the young drummer to impress, while the set closes with For Heaven’s Sake. This is a return to the trio format and is the only non Horace Silver penned tune on the album.

Original sleeve notes are of the (Leonard) feathered variety, offering moderate encouragement, biographies and a brief run through the tracks- with little to annoy (but remember, I’ve got my eye on you Mr. Feather!).

You can get hold of this on CD with all the extra tracks for @ £4.00, although the ultimate listen is possibly the Blue Note first pressing, a fabled Lexington as the cognoscenti say. If you want to know more about that please visit the superb http://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/horace-silver-six-pieces-of-silver-1956-lexington/ but please come back here again!

So there you have it. I think this is actually the fifth Horace Silver set currently in my collection, although there may be a couple of old tapes from the 80’s when I used to borrow and record library copies on cassette. I recommend it highly- purchase and enjoy!

As Matt would say:- ‘They had something to say!

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Hollywood: The Crusaders

Richard Nixon can be blamed for a long list of things. He is partly to blame for my interest in jazz and moon rock has a part to play!

Back in 1973 Nixon gave Edward Heath and the leaders of 134 other countries slivers of moon rock, brought to Earth as part of the Apollo Programme. Our bit was put on display in Kensington and this was big news, even in my hometown. A trip to London was organised from my school to view this mysterious substance. Since it offered a chance to see the big city for a second time (I’d already been to a cup final- but that’s another story), I was well up for it.

Once we had marveled at our little bit of the Moon and had a good look around the Science Museum, we were turned loose by the accompanying teachers on the Metropolis and in the time-honoured manner of many stupid teenage boys, we headed straight for Soho. During the course of my wanderings I found Dobell’s Record Shop on Charing Cross Road. I was already smitten by Junior Walker and wanted to take my interest in saxophones further. I’d read in Blues and Soul Mag that there was a version of Way Back Home on a newish Crusaders album and I managed to locate and purchase my copy of Hollywood. I also bought another LP featuring a saxophonist and have just discovered a strange fact about it- but that can wait for another post.

Years later, I’ve still got my original copy, released on MoWest and pressed at EMI’s plant at Hayes (there was also a version on UK Tamla Motown, as you will see). Here’s the cover:-

Crusaders cover-2

When I got my new album onto the turntable of the radiogram at home my adventures with jazz started. Spanish Harlem was a familiar track. I already had the Aretha Franklin version on an Atlantic single but I don’t think I knew that the original was recorded by Ben E King in 1960, or that it was a Leiber / Phil Spector composition. It still sounds superb (despite mangling spins on the radiogram turntable which is landfill somewhere) with beautifully recorded drums and pleasing tenor sax and trombone solos. Try A Little Harder is a bit of a filler, but then comes the title track. On Hollywood Joe Sample tickles a very engaging and soulful tune out of the piano before tenor and sax play in unison and the tenor plays a downright earthy solo, followed by Wayne Henderson on trombone. Thanks to Montysylvano for the YouTube clip

Do Yourself a Favour is a slab of early 70’s jazz funk with wah wah guitar. Its OK but doesn’t excel.

Side two’s opener Cold Duck Eddie has a nice strolling sort of a sound with the trombone out in force. Way Back Home, was familiar to me through Junior Walker’s version and I was a little disappointed with this one at the time as the sax sounds much more restrained and formal within the context of a very tight band. Trawling YouTube, I found this great live version from 2003 (courtesy Horthy66) with a wonderful introduction by Joe Sample. I still love the way Junior did it though!

Papa Hooper’s Barrelhouse Groove never did much for me, while Alekesam is a pleasant sounding track that could have been bland but which is saved by great musicianship.

So there you have it. Richard Nixon, the Moon and the music of the Crusaders. Best of all, the Crusaders are playing at Ronnie Scott’s in a couple of weeks and I aim to tell you all about it. The clip above has certainly whetted my appetite.

The band etc: Wayne Henderson (trombone); Wilton Felder (tenor sax and electric bass); Joe Sample (keyboards); Stix Hooper (drums). No studio details on my copy (maybe someone out there on the net can help us with this?) but it was recorded in 1972 and produced by Stewart Levine.

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Home Cookin’: The Incredible Jimmy Smith

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Why should I bother with this:- Jimmy Smith pretty much led the way in popularising the Hammond organ in a jazz setting. A superb blues set featuring the seldom recorded Percy France on tenor sax. Smith, Burrell and France play with great feeling to compliment each other perfectly. Fairly laid back- but just put it on in company and just wait for somebody to ask what this great music is.

The band etc:- Jimmy Smith (Hammond organ); Percy France (tenor sax); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Donald Bailey (drums). Recorded 15 July 1958, May 24 1959 and June 16 1959. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Ira Gitler. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4050.

The Music:- “Oh no! Not more of that harpsichord thing” is a sentence that I’ve heard on numerous occasions. The world is divided between those who like and those who loathe the Hammond organ. This is a set that will delight the believers and win over converts, with its exquisite proclamations of the blues.

See See Rider is the delightfully restrained and slow-paced opener; a track for the small hours. Not a note is wasted by any of the three soloists with Percy France’s second short solo and his interplay with Smith afterwards being especially good. The following YouTube posting is courtesy of nagusd

France sits out for Sugar Hill with the trio also offering a simmering version of the Ray Charles hit I Got A Woman. Side one of the album closes with Messin’ Around, a slightly faster paced vehicle.

Gracie, another mid-paced blues opens the second half with an extended opportunity for France and Burrell to play compelling evocative solos.

Ira Gitler’s 1959 sleeve notes on the second track date badly when he writes words advising ‘men’ to ‘…use this track with caution on bashful females’. You can be the judge of whether Come on Baby should be only available on licence by listening to it yourself although as of 2 May 2017 it was unavailable at YouTube.

The album closes with Motorin Along, which is an apt title for a track which conjures up an image the open road, perhaps an imagined New England Turnpike, with your foot pressing on the accelerator. The sleeve recounts how Jimmy Smith used an old hearse to carry his organ and its essential Leslie speakers from gig to gig. Apparently, however, hearses were banned from thruways and turnpikes unless they were being used for their usual purpose. The story goes that drummer Donald Bailey was the regular nominated corpse, most memorably when the hearse had to travel to the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival.

I’ve found it rather hard to find a first pressing or early Blue Note copy of Home Cookin’ that hasn’t had the life played out of it, itself a marker of what a great album it is. However, I’ve currently got a pre-Liberty vinyl pressing that sounds great. This is one of those recordings where it is worth getting hold of the CD, which has a further five tracks, of which Apostrophe, a Percy France tour de force with a marked nod to Charlie Parker’s influence is well worth hearing.

Lots of people really like the cover. I think it is good but not that special. However, I highly commend the music contained within and hope you will enjoy it too.

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