Solo Soundclip: 

Fade Soundclip:

See Steve's Hand-Written Solo transcription


Michael Brecker's solo on:
"I Love Paris"(Cole Porter)

    After a great deal of planning, and some back-and-forth communications regarding concept with Hiroshi Itsuno, then of Polydor K.K.(Japan), I was ready to move ahead and record what was to become "CROSSINGS"(Verve). I decided on this title, and the Jean-Michel Folon cover image, because my father had passed away in January of 1993, and it seemed that his journey was to be his final 'crossing.' This particular CD was recorded at the 6th floor room of Skyline Studios on W. 37th St.Crossings in New York City by the great engineer James Farber. The recording was to feature longtime bandmates: bassist Anthony Jackson and percussionist Manolo Badrena. But this recording would bring us together with drummer Dennis Chambers, for the first time on a full recording. We had previously recorded 4 tunes for the "HEADLINE" CD in '92. However, upon the suggestion of Itsuno-san, my old and dear friend, Michael Brecker would join the quartet on three tunes. Those tunes would be: "Descarga Khanalonious"; Bronislau Kaper's memorable, "While My Lady Sleeps"; and Cole Porter's "I Love Paris." As is almost always the case, Michael's contributions were superb, and I treasure them to this day. And though I have stated this before on many occasions, "CROSSINGS" might well be my most beautiful sounding recording. I am speaking of the audio presentation by James Farber. He did an absolutely superb job recording and mixing this project.
    For the recording, I decided to concentrate on music which would incorporate, in varying degrees, elements of Latin music. In part, the inspiration to interpret and record "I Love Paris" came from an older Cal Tjader recording titled, "LATIN KICK" from 1956. The tune itself is really singularly unique where form is concerned. The original sheet music for the tune really only contains one [A] and then, the [B] section, each containing 16 bars. Yes, that's it!!! For me, it would have been most strange to have played the tune, instrumentally speaking, that way. So, what I did was to add an additional [A] and what we now have is an [A][A][B] form. Right up until the moment of recording, I wrestled with just how we would approach the last bars of each section where the final cadence to Cm7 appears. Somehow, some instinct kept telling me that some extra bars, related to the Intro I had come-up with, would be necessary or appropriate. After much discussion, especially between Mike and me, it appears that we decided to go in the direction with which Mike was most comfortable. And that was to have each [A] section be 16 bars during the solos, no matter how they had been played during the melody statements. Only after the [B] section is the vamp over the Cm9(6) sonority extended to become 8 bars in length. For this recording, I was actually able to schedule two rehearsals, which for me is a great luxury. I believe that Mike only attended one of them, and just for a couple of hours. At that rehearsal, we knew that Mike would play the melodies for the [A] sections and I would take care of letter [B].
    Over the years, here at Korner 1, we have presented several Michael Brecker solos, most of them having appeared on Don Grolnick's wonderful "MEDIANOCHE," recording from 1995. At least one of those solos, over Horace Silver's "Cape Verdean Blues" contains Mike's explorations over cadences to minor 7 chords. The aforementioned tune is also in Cm7. So, the studious amongst you might want to examine the various lines over the G7(alt.) passages, and see how, if at all, they might be similar, or at the very least, drawn from a familiar linear vocabulary. As it has been for the other tenor sax transcriptions here, I have written it out in the register of the guitar, so for those of you who are not familiar with this, the solo actually sounds an octave below where I have written it. For those who actually play the tenor sax, you would just want to transpose what is written up a whole-step. For as long as I had known him, Mike always loved to play duo with just drums, and even in contexts where there might have been no chordal instrument present. He loved the freedom of these settings, but also the added responsibility it conjures up to the harmony and the form of the tune being played. After some discussion, we decided that the guitar would basically lay out during the [A] sections and then re-enter behind him when [B] arrived. In addition to this, Anthony lays out as well for the first two [A] sections. Listening to Mike playing over this sparse texture offers proof, which no one needs to hear, that his playing alone is sufficient to fill any space. Let's take a closer look at this fantastic 2 chorus solo.
    I would imagine that, at the same aforementioned rehearsal, it was decided that Mike Brecker would play the first solo. As I had just completed the statement of the melody for [B], Mike enters over the final 8 bars of Cm7 which mirror what we played in [I], the Intro. When preparing this transcription, one of the most fascinating aspects that appeared was the fact that, in Mike's first phrase, over Cm9(6), he plays an E-natural! Yes, an E-natural, and we are playing a Cm7 chord where you would expect to see Eb's as part of C Dorian(C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb). Immediately after he plays the opening phrase, we only see Eb's. It's hard to know what more to say except that Mike never said a word about that note as we listened to a playback. I don't believe that this is such a case, but, Mike's brother, Randy has always been one to explore utilizing the major 3rd over minor chords, though he tends to touch upon it as an upper neighbor to the m3rd. Between bars 5-8, there is a very nice long line, which certainly shows a Dorian orientation, as Mike leads himself into the beginning of [Chorus 1]. The only piece of chromaticism takes place at the end of bar 6 into bar 7 is where he plays F-E-Eb before ascending into a Cm9(11) arpeggio from the Eb. From his opening phrase through the first bars of each letter, Mike's playing is most melodic, and the phrases are developed beautifully. During the ascending line from bars 5-7 of [A], you can see that he inserts a B-natural instead of the usual Bb. I suppose that some would say that he's putting to use C melodic minor(C, D, Eb, F, G, A, B), but perhaps the B-natural is there because he is headed towards 8 bars where the sonority goes between Dm7b5 and G7(alt.)? There a B-natural is most appropriate. From bars 9-12 of [A], Mike employs chord tones, which could be derived directly from Dm7b5(D-F-Ab-C), or perhaps from G7b9(G-B-D-F-Ab). As you can see, D-F-Ab appear in both chords. From the end of bar 12 through the first phrase of [A2], he plays a long line of double-time 8th-notes. On beat 2 of bar 13, there's a note, which I notated with an 'x' as a Gb(because that's the pitch I could hear, and in that register), but, I believe that it's just a note that either didn't speak properly, or Mike made a small mistake. It's hard to say, but perhaps it was meant to be an Ab below the Db to complete that arpeggio? You will see, as the solo develops, that he plays similar 4-note arpeggios over these chords. Again, it pays to keep in mind that Mike asked to be allowed to just play these sections, [A][A2] with only drums and percussion, which allows him much more linear and harmonic freedom. One could say that, over bars 13-14, the Dm7b5, he's really relating to all of it as an extended G7(alt.) passage, especially because of the inclusion of the Db. Over bars 15-16, he plays another extended line of running 8th-notes beginning with a different formation of a Cm7(9) arpeggio, which concludes with a great deal of chromaticism. Notice how he ascends from the A-natural all the way to his 'target note' of F-natural.
    As [A2] begins, Mike plays a motif in 3rds and, once again, puts to use a B-natural as part of the overall phrase in bar 3. Here, his 'target note' is his high 'F' which is always a most expressive note on the tenor sax. From that point forward, bars 6 through the end of bar 15, he streams together a fantastic Brecker-esque line, which again weaves its way through the Dm7b5-G7(alt.) in alternating bars. This long line is highly characteristic of Mike's playing, and reveals his particular approach to employing chromaticism well beyond the choices of the 'correct' scales or modes. What gives lines like this that very 'snaky' quality could be contained within a passage such as the one you find in bars 6-7 where, beginning on a B-natural, the notes descend as follows: B-Bb-G#-A-G-Ab-G. For the non-tenor sax player, in part, these are the kinds of linear devices to explore which can broaden your playing greatly. Between bars 7-8, there's a very traditional G7 altered line which begins on the root, on beat 3, and descends to the B-natural before spelling out a G7b9 arpeggio. In its various inversions, this chord sound is often used as a device to cadence to im7. But, of course, the actual cadence is not going to take place until some 8-bars later. Also, as part of this extended long line, you can see the interval of the 4th appearing quite often. Take a look at bar 13 and you'll see a motif: 1-2-5 which becomes, E-F#-B-Ab-Db. Then, in the following bar, he plays Eb-F-Bb-G-C. In bar 15, the E-F#-B motif returns. I don't believe that it is important to ask, "What are notes like E-natural and F# doing over a G7(alt.) chord that is passing to a minor tonic?" If one is going to be overly cerebral, it's a fair question. However, in this case, it is more important to view such moments as appearing only to serve the thrust of the line and nothing more. Everything he plays, without thought and being in the moment, is headed towards the final cadence phrase which begins on beat 3 of bar 13 on an F-natural, and goes right on through another G7b9 arpeggio in bar 14 before arriving at a G-natural which anticipates the return of the Cm7 chord. The rhythmic portion of the descending C Dorian line that appears in bars 15-16 always makes me think of mid-'60s Wayne Shorter. And, when Mike used to joke around with impressions of his various saxophone heroes, he would often play these rhythmic groupings as part of a brief homage to Wayne. It was always very funny. Perhaps not as funny as his Joe Henderson impressions! Anyway, this descending line lands perfectly on an E-natural as the chord changes from Cm7 to Cmaj7, and letter [B] begins.
    One of the great aspects of this Cole Porter tune from the 1953 Broadway musical "CAN-CAN" is that the [A] section centers around Cm7 and then, in stark contrast, [B] arrives with a burst of sunlight, and minor becomes major with the new section now in C major. It was a brilliant compositional touch. As I pointed out earlier, Mike begins the [B] section with a short melodic motif which places some emphasis on the 3rd, E-natural, along with B(major 7th) and A(6th). Perhaps this is just what the composition 'tells' him to do? After the initial phrase, Mike travels to a most interesting harmonic area. The inclusion of an F#, the #4 or the Lydian tone, is nothing unusual in a jazz setting. However, to configure the F# in a phrase which includes a C#, now that is really fascinating. What makes it so interesting is the fact that, in context, you hardly notice that he has played a C#! Perhaps it's because the note is neatly tucked away within the two motifs? The first descends: F#-C#-B-F# in bar 4. And then, in bar 5, as another long line begins in bar 6, the pick-up to that bar ascends: F#-B-C#-F# and then descends the same way before beginning a line which appears to related to Bb Dorian more than anything else. I have often pointed out that, relative to a G7(alt.) chord, the minor pentatonic built upon the #9(here that would be Bb) gives you all the altered notes: Bb(#9); Db(b5); Eb(#5); F(7th); Ab(b9). Again, perhaps Mike is just 'ignoring' the m7b5 chord and relating to everything as simply one large piece of V7 chord altered? When we finally cadence to Fmaj7 in bar 9, he plays all chord tones. This continues through the ii-V(F#m7-B7) in bar 10. Between the final cadence from Em7-A7(alt.)-Dm7b5-G7(alt.), he plays another long line of running 8th-notes which also touches upon familiar linear territory for Michael Brecker. The configuration of pitches, which begins in bar 11 over Em7-A7(alt.): Eb-C-E-G, is almost always associated with the diminished scale, and a pattern which was explored endlessly by the great John Coltrane. Again, as diminished patterns are all related to the interval of the m3rd, here, relative to A7, one could view this grouping as related to 'C' or perhaps to Eb, which, by the way, would be the b5 substitute for A7. The next time this grouping appears is in bar 13, but here we see it descending as: D-B-D#-F#-B. My suspicion is that Mike is employing a sophisticated substitution device where a player can choose to replace a m7b5 with an altered dominant 7th chord. So, in this case, Dm7b5 becomes D7(alt), and it is then a V7 of V7! If you explore this relationship between the little diminished configuration of notes and this chord, it should make better sense to you. Again, the linear configuration is not just moving down 1/2-step because it's a 'cool' thing to do. It has a most definite harmonic purpose to it!!! After the cadence to Cm9(6) in bar 15, Mike again returns to the more lyrical, and all the notes played are related yet again to C Dorian.
    At this point, and perhaps I should have presented it earlier, I would like to say something about musical 'spelling' and notation where transcriptions are concerned. In general, I always try to adhere to the basic principles of music notation. Where the spelling of the notes is concerned, obviously when a passage is ascending, I try to use #'s and, when it is descending I try to use b's. Some people, music scholars, might say that I should be using key signatures for everything when, in truth, I never use them. As I have explained before, in almost all forms of popular music, and that includes Jazz, the keys or tonal centers are always moving around, sometimes from bar to bar. So, one would be opening and canceling key signatures constantly. For me, I find this to be more annoying than helpful. In general, for most passages, I try to keep the pitches related to the key center at that moment. This is what you normally would see. But, when one is transcribing the work of any very creative and inventive player, like a Michael Brecker, where the flow and intent of the lines has a will and purpose all its own, notation becomes a bit more difficult. For example, on a tune like "I Love Paris" one could say that we are in a C minor area for virtually all of the letter [A] sections. But, when Mike's lines serpentine around and beyond the accepted language for G7 altered chords, the choice of a sharp or a flat can be much less clear. For example, in several bars, while he is playing over Dm7b5-G7(alt.), I had originally labeled some pitches as Eb's because the general 'area' is still oriented towards C minor. But, upon closer examination, I came to view some phrases differently, and changed my notation to D#, because this pitch is the #5 of G7. And over that chordal sound, it is not really related to being the m3rd of Cm7. So, keep this consideration in mind, especially when writing out transcriptions of your own. As they used to tell us in school, "Spelling counts!!!" Let us now continue.
    Four bars before [Chorus 2] begins, Dennis Chambers moves from his mounted cowbell to the ride cymbal, and, it would seem that as Michael Brecker hears this he begins this chorus with some very punchy rhythmic phrases. One gets the feeling that he can sense that the clave for the tune is in 2:3. It is fascinating to think that Mike is so musical that he might be just 'feeling' that. Once again, over this Cm7 chord, Mike sticks to the C Dorian mode without a single chromatic tone being played. As the Dm7b5-G7(alt.) chord sequence begins, again in bar 7, he leads into that with a 5-note descending passage that is right out of the G altered dominant scale(G, Ab, Bb, B, Db, Eb F), or he might be relating to it as the melodic minor 1/2-step above the root which, in this case would be Ab melodic minor. Those descending notes are Eb-Db-B-Bb-Ab-G. Then, over the Dm7b5, it appears that he ignores this sonority, and is only relating to the sense of the altered V7 chord. You see two descending arpeggios, one is G7#5, and the next is a Db triad in the 2nd inversion. Db, again, being the b5 substitute for G7. The line concludes in his lowest register with a great sounding Ab. Then, in bar 9, he begins another extended phrase of running 8th-notes that does not conclude until the 4th bar of [A2]. This long, jagged phrase is characterized by line configurations that dance in an around areas related to G7 altered. In bar 9, Mike begins with a phrase which, to me, is clearly related to G7(alt.), as it includes both the 3rd and the #9, but spread far apart. In bar 10, you also see Db-Bb-F-Ab and one could view that as a Db triad with the 6th, again, the b5 sub for G7. In bar 11, the first 4 notes, outline G7(b5b9), but the next 4 notes seem to be in the area of F# major, or perhaps B major, before returning to G7 altered sounds in bar 12. In bar 13, Mike seems to be replacing the Dm7b5 with D7(alt.), as you can clearly see the related pitches: F(#9)-Eb(b9)-F#(3rd)-B(13th)-D(R). In bar 14, the bar before the cadence to Cm7, the line is clearly G7 altered. As the Cm7 sonority returns, Mike's lines only relate to C Dorian. The only chromaticism present is in bar 16 when the F-E-Eb-F motif returns.
    As [A2] begins, Mike is still completing the long line that began in the previous [A]. Still, the only chromaticism that exists within the C Dorian area is in bar 3, and it's the same F-E-Eb-F motif. In bar 5, he plays a brief Cm9 arpeggio, that vaults to his high 'C' which is played expressively. It is really one of the few long notes during the entire solo. This 'C' bends down to a B-natural as the Dm7b5 chord arrives in bar 7. In reviewing my transcription, I came to question my own spelling of this pitch as B-natural. Why not Cb? If you look at what In bar 8, supposedly over G7(alt.), he plays a Db triad: Ab-F-Db descending. So, had I spelled the B-natural as Cb, it would have been more clear that Mike views this as, yet again, another b5 sub, Db7 over G7! Perhaps one could view the B-natural as, what I would call, a 'pivot tone' because, at once, it is the major 7th for C melodic minor, but it is also the 7th(Cb) of Db7. In bars 9 and 11, Mike plays his most rapid-fire passages of the entire solo. The target note of both lines is a higher Db, the b5 of G7, to which he drops down from a D-natural. Both lines begin by outlining the first three notes of a Dm7b5 chord(D-F-Ab), but then, they take different paths to get to that high 'D'. In both cases, the last notes leading up to it are the same: Ab-G-Ab-B-D. Again, these pitches seem to clearly indicate G7b9 as a foundation. The short 'response' to each of these flurries is worth noting too. The 2nd one in bar 12 contains an E-natural. Generally speaking, when one is in a minor key area, and here, remember that we are in the area of Cm7, an E-natural is not the most common note to be played. This is because it is the natural 6th or 13th of G7, and that pitch does not resolve well. It certainly would make a terrible resolution to an Eb, the m3rd of Cm7. Again, when the comping is sparse, it makes pitch choices like this sound perfectly natural. However, Mike repeats that E-natural as he leads into the final cadence back to Cm7. The front portion of the line in bar 13 contains some 4ths: E down to B-natural, and then, the line configuration 1-2-5: Ab-Bb-Eb which all leads to bar 14 and a wonderful descending passage with some great chromaticism from Ab right on down to the resolution point of Eb on beat 1 of bar 15.
    As the final [B] arrives in [Chorus 2] and we again shift from Cm7 to Cmaj7, Mike employs a series of terrific rhythmic motifs which dig into the time feel, and place an emphasis on the maj3rd(E), the 6th(A) and the maj7(B). Notice how the first 3 figures land strongly on beat 3!!! I just love the way he attacks the D7(alt.) chord in bar 6 with an Eb triad. In bars 7-8, where a non-resolving ii-V(Dm7-G7) appears, his approach is strictly D Dorian. In bar 9, over the Fmaj7, we again find an arpeggiated approach. And, in bar 10, with the ii-V(F#m7-B7), the line is clearly in F# Dorian. Bar 11 presents some problems for me in terms of finite analysis, and here the spelling of the notes becomes important. I have known for many years that Mike liked to think of any altered dominant 7th chord as playing the melodic minor 1/2-step above the root. So, though we have written a bar each of Em7 and A7(alt.), the configuration of the line in bar 11, leads me to believe that he is ignoring the Em7 and viewing it all as one long A7(alt.) passage. This is because all of the notes, except what I have now spelled as an Fb, relate to Bbm. From bars 12-14, the same diminished groupings that appeared earlier during the solo are present. Again, it seems clear to me that Mike is just playing through the Dm7b5 and relating to the 2 bars as G7(alt.). You have to remember that, in the diminished cycle, you have the same triads in both major and minor. So, over G7(alt.), you can have G-Bb-Db-E as major, but you could just as well have Gm-Bbm-Dbm-Em!!! Notice in bar 13, you have the mixed grouping: Db-Bb-F-D followed by Bb-G-D-Bb. If Mike had played the last note as B-natural, the groupings would have been completely symmetrical. It is all most fascinating, and food for thought for music students of all ages!
    With the final resolution to Cm9(6) in bar 15, Mike plays an arpeggio, which puts to use a B-natural which gives the chord a Cm9(maj7) feeling. From then on, the lines are purely C Dorian. However, in bars 17-18 as his line ascends, it peaks while playing between very high register B-naturals and C's. As the solo concludes, and the line descends, it is all strictly C Dorian. Just as it was before, the only chromaticism appearing is F-E-Eb in bar 21, and again in bar 22. The very last phrase of the solo involves a 4-note ascending arpeggio Eb-F-Bb-D to an Eb, which then descends straight down in an F7 arpeggio, Eb-C-A-F resolving to a 'G'. This phrase overlaps the beginning of my guitar solo. As everyone knows, it is never an enviable task to have to follow a Michael Brecker solo!!! Just smile and keep playing!!!

    One a side note, recently, I had a conversation with writer Chris Jisi from "BASS PLAYER" Magazine as he was preparing a cover story on Anthony Jackson and the creation of the 6-string Contrabass Guitar. Over the many years of his career, there really has not been enough attention paid to Anthony, and especially not to his harmonic and rhythmic concepts. Some of this is the fault of the magazines and their sense of the need to present only the most popular players from the Rock, Pop, and R&B genres. The remainder of the guilt for these artistic snubs lies squarely on Anthony's shoulders because he has, at times, avoided the press, but also, he has squandered the opportunities he has been presented by, in my opinion, talking about nonsensical concerns. I suggested to Chris that, IF he could get Anthony to actually talk about it, he should play him the Fade from "I Love Paris" and, ask Anthony just how he came to play what he played in those moments. If Chris could get him to address that, he would be doing a service to everyone. Not too long after "CROSSINGS" had been recorded, the Fade of this tune began to fascinate me. I certainly understood exactly what I was playing in that moment, and I understood what Mike Brecker was doing. But WHAT was Anthony doing?
    And so, one day, I sat down with my guitar, and began to analyze what Anthony had played. Now, before I get to that, I would just want everyone to understand that I was simply playing figures in 6ths and 3rds, which should indicate to anyone that we are vamping over Cm7-F7. That's it! It could not have been more clear. Needless to say, one might expect to hear C's and F's, perhaps a G-natural, here and there, from the bass. But, what does Anthony play? Well, this is the fascinating part, and the reason for why I have chosen to add above a soundclip of the Fade. If you listen carefully, you can hear Anthony playing mostly Db's and B-naturals. How could he have played such notes? And, why do they sound so fantastic? At least to me! Sadly, I've never been able to sit with Anthony and discuss these moments with him, so I cannot answer the question based upon any factual knowledge from the source. But, if I might, let us look at this way as a possible explanation. The V7 area of C minor is G7, with the basic chord tones being: G-B-D-F. The b5 substitute for that same G7 chord would be Db7, and its chord tones are: Db-F-Ab-Cb(B). As you can see, the guts of both dominant 7th chord forms are F-B(Cb), which I always refer to as the "guide tones" - the tritone intervals within the chord. So now, looking back at what Anthony plays, it is as if, without ever playing a single C-natural, he goes right to the Db's and B-naturals. Is it possible that he is, in some fashion, relating to the entire section as if he is playing in the area of the b5 substitute? Without considering this as being 'outside' - it certainly is a most unique approach to something that almost any other player would never have considered, especially without there ever being a resolution of any sort! I am not suggesting that bassists reading this analysis should run out and try this in a similar harmonic context. I would imagine that you might get fired immediately! But, I wanted to offer this small insight into the uniquely brilliant harmonic mind of Anthony Jackson.
    It is also worth pointing out a little moment in the Fade that reflects the further harmonic creativity of Michael Brecker. If you have the real CD, the Fade actually begins at around the 5:24 mark and only lasts a little over 1-minute. Mike begins the section by playing a small 16th-note figure with C-Bb-C. It is perhaps reminiscent of Eddie Harris' "Listen Here." After flirting with this harmonic area, suddenly at 5:54, Mike plays the principal theme of "I Love Paris" but in F#/Gb. Yes, this is a b5 away from Cm7. It's remarkable that it sounds so fluid and natural. You almost wouldn't know that something 'strange' was happening, harmonically speaking. As Mike develops this melodic fragment, he closes it out with a very rhapsodic, almost romantic statement of the notes: Db-Cb-Gb(C#-B-F#). I don't know what to say except that it's just brilliant, and very much the Mike Brecker with whom I spent so much time jamming, and playing from the dawn of the '70s on. It would have been interesting to learn if, what Anthony played, unconsciously triggered the exploration of this harmonic area by Mike? Food for thought perhaps?

    Sitting here, as winter 2008-09 draws nearer, it is so hard to imagine that nearly 2 years have come and gone since Michael Brecker passed away. Like all his friends, I miss our conversations, the occasional extended phone call, the terse and very amusing e-mails. I miss the wisdom of his counsel during times of great difficulty. Mostly, I guess I just miss knowing that he was out there somewhere, enjoying his life, his family, and music. Like his many, many fans, I miss the anticipation of getting to hear something new coming from his imagination on a just released CD. Oh well, I just miss him!!!
    In closing, as we always do at this time of the year, Blaine and I would like to wish everyone all the joys of the Holiday Season, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Y por supuesto, les deseamos un muy ¡FELIZ NAVIDAD y FELIZ AÑO NUEVO! Wishing you all good health, happiness, and a heapin' helpin' of PEACE everywhere!!! As we move closer and closer to the beginning of Barack Obama's presidency, I am filled with hope and a cautious optimism. If we can all pull together, the future could hold great things for the USA and for our partners all over the world. Let us hope so!!!

[Photos: Steve w/ Michael Brecker @ Skyline Studios, December 1994
Manolo Badrena, Steve w/ Michael Brecker
Photos by: David Tan]

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