Issue # 92 REVIEWS

New! New! New!  Zzaj PODCAST!

We now have 3 TOTALLY FREE CD's (with free cover art) available for download at our NETLABEL site!  The only thing we ask is that you scroll to the bottom of the page(s) & give us a REVIEW!  Please ADVERTISE this to ALL your friends... tell them we are GIVING AWAY music!



Ryan Meagher - ATROEFY: Yet another splendid guitarist, albeit with a totally different and fresh approach to jazz... as the liner notes say, a kind of "modern jazz for the indie rocker".  No matter what kind of "brand" you give it, though, if you have adventure in your soul, you'll enjoy Ryan's music!  One thing that seems to course through all 7 brilliant tracks is groove... not all the pieces are the sort you'll sing along to, due to some pretty "loose" structures that allow all 5 players (Meagher's guitar, Loren Stillman's superb alto sax, Matt Renzi's woodwind magick, Geoff Kraly's electric bass & Vinnie Sperrazza's drums) to explore to their heart's content.  Though they move 'round the circle constantly, they don't wander at all... tight, tight, & very together!  This CD has some highly talented and original players who very clearly enjoy "twisting" your ideas of what jazz is "supposed to be" 'round a bit... I give it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED & expect we'll be hearing much more from Ryan soon!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj 

Bill Banfield Band - SPRING FORWARD: Liner notes proclaim Bill's guitar playing to be a lot like Wes Montgomery's - that's not an easy claim to live up to, but in this case, he definitely pulls it off with seeming ease.  All original & very tasty jazz that spans the full range... mellow & soulful to near-improvisational, his music will inspire your spirit to look at the things that are around you in a new light - a good one, & hopeful throughout!  I received my copy in early June, about 5 days before the street date & have been listening to it in the car player over & over, as well as my .mp3 card... the cuts on here will "stick to your ribs" & won't disappoint your ears - this is music that can definitely be described as timeless.  My favorite cut on the album is track #4, "Free Me", because it just JUMPS into your mind from the opening bar & won't let go... Bill features a whole host of players, far too many to itemize in this review, but a lot of them are raw young talent who are absolutely filled with the fire, & for this listener, that was nowhere better exemplified than on this piece!  Plenty of other stunners as well, most notably a wonderful "walking" piece titled "Losing Absalom"... if you can't chill to this one, you're untouchable, without doubt.  Personally, I have no doubt you will be hearing a LOT more from Mr. Banfield & his mates in the near future.  I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating... get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Mark Masters Ensemble with Lee Konitz - ONE DAY WITH LEE: For all us "old" jazzters, names like Konitz not only "ring the bell", they form the basis for the kind of music we were raised on.  Masters does the arrangements on all-original Konitz compositions with total skill and the highest of energies... the best & favorite piece for this reviewer was "Dream Stepper", featuring Lee's alto sax in tandem with alto from Gary Foster... one of the liveliest jazz tunes I've heard in many years.  Another absolutely smashing Lee original that carries me back many, many years to back alley joints I've been in 'round the world is "Cork 'N' Bib" - it just exudes COOL!  We have reviewed other fantastic CD's that featured Mark's ensemble work (check out issue #86), but "One Day With Lee" will thrill jazz lovers across the time spectrum; absolutely timeless jazz that will continue to spin long after the "fad" stuff is hung out to dry.  I give this my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  Get more information at CAPRI RECORDS catalog.  Rotcod Zzaj

Vayo - TANGO: One thing I always know I can count on (from the promoter who sent this CD for review) is that the music will be genuine, heartfelt and different... I'm not a huge fan of the Tango, in one sense anyway... it usually brings up images of low-budget dance films from the '40's & early '50's that didn't fit my image (back in those years) of adventure... well, the music that Mr. Raimondo (from Uruguay) composes, plays and sings for us here allows the listener to create their own images... a listener with any reasonable amount of imagination will quickly be flashing pictures of Cuba Libre's, gently swaying Spanish ladies & Vayo singing (mostly in Spanish) enchantingly behind them!  If you're looking for hardcore "roots" jazz, this may not be your cup of tea, but if (like me) you like the music you listen to to inspire and transport you to other regions, you'll love "Tango"... I found his English rendition of "Three For Tango" to be totally full of life and joy in the living of it!  Something a bit more lively was "Milonga Sentimental", my favorite on the album... Vayo's music is truly a breath of fresh air that will give you pleasure for years to come, & gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears (& our heart)!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj 

Ancient Future - PLANET PASSION: I first reviewed this CD in issue #57; the newly re-mastered 30th anniversary version was sent to me by Matthew Montfort at my request... partially because I had enjoyed the first recording so much, but also because I wanted to hear what the rework had yielded sonically... yes, it's the same 12 compositions, but there seems to be an even higher level of vibrancy, spirit & light!  If you click HERE, you can listen to a stream of samples from each of the tracks; as I listen to it on the CD copy Matthew sent, I am (again) amazed at the assemblage of world mastery he assembled for the recording!  You can't "lump" this music in with any "category", because it flows from the life spirit all of us have within... it's just that the expression of that spirituality is so well enhanced by the players - far too long a list to itemize here.  This one (again) receives a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... even if you had the previous recording, it will be worth your time and money to GET this one... get all the detail at    Rotcod Zzaj

Harry Skoler - TWO ONES: We reviewed Skoler's superb clarinet work way back in issue #29, but this new CD is much more laid-back than that earlier excursion into swing (though it did feature Saindon's playing on it)... Ed's vibes create a really mellow atmosphere through all 14 original compositions on this album, with a really strong jazz flavor.  The rest of the quintet are featured on the first 7 tracks, then after cut 8, it switches to purely duo action (piano/clarinet).  Actually, for my ears, though, the cuts that had Ed playing vibes were much more attractive... my favorite song, in fact, was #7, "Silent Serenity", which is (actually) far from silent... yes, it's serene & mellow, but full of the vibrant spirit of life & the living thereof... Matt Marvuglio played flute on that track, & it's some of the most soulful wind I've ever heard blown - he literally paints sonic landscapes for your aural pleasure!  I'm highly impressed with "Two Ones", & declare it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz listeners of all persuasions.  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

 Gebhard Ullmann & Basement Research - DON'T TOUCH MY MUSIC: What a way for a talented musician to celebrate his 50th Birthday... Ulmann's bass clarinet & tenor sax are joined by British sax player Julian Arguelles & trombonist Steve Swell, along with bassist John Hebert and drummer Gerald Cleaver.  The quintet is in absolutely fine form, with heavy emphasis on the reeds, but the bass is vibrant, & the drums scorching... your ears won't anticipate the volcanic energy with which the players assault them on the 2-CD set.  The opener on Volume I, "Dreierlei", was red-hot, though you wouldn't realize it from the intro; but it was "Kleine Figuren No.1" that will truly get your attention... very accessible music that listeners across the jazz spectrum will keep coming back to.  If you're looking for something that's "slinky", though, you'll probably dig on "New No Ness"... there's a nice slow build (helped by the bass) to the 10:27 that gradually reaches right out & grabs your ears at about 5:00... superb contrasts and imagery from that point on!  This is not just a celebration for Gebhard - it's for the listener as well, & reminds me strongly of some of the sessions I used to observe at the Jazzkeller's in Frankfurt & Mainz (many, many years ago) - this CD comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj 

Mike Clinco - NEON: This is my first listen to the mighty mellow images that Mike paints with his guitar, & I can tell you - it won't be the last.  8 of the 9 tracks are originals from Clinco and the energy the group plays with (Bob Sheppard, tenor/alto sax and alto flute; Walt Fowler, flugelhorn; Darek "Oles" Oleszkiewicz, acoustic bass; Jimmy Johnson, electric bass; Jimmy Branly, drums & percussion) will impress you right away.  The most impressive track (for my ears, anyway) for high-energy quotient was "X Cue Says" - this thing will make you strut right on down the walk, talkin' th' talk, no doubt, & Mike's guitar will get you acquainted (right a-way) with what th' buzz on th' street is - this is one HIP track, & my favorite on the CD!  If your inclined towards something a bit less "street-wise", more sophisticated & groove-oriented, you'll also dig on "Bookends", the opening track.  Though I imagine the album title was based on the brilliant palette of sonic colors that Clinco & crew paint for your aural enjoyment, it's not as "flashy" as it might imply, rather a collection of 9 masterpieces that will stay in your ears for a long, LONG time to come... this gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "best guitar-based jazz".  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Andrew Green - NARROW MARGIN: This CD release happens on the 30th of June, 2009... I can tell you after to listening to (just) the first track - this is the stuff for all you hardcore jazz listeners out there... it's influenced by a 1952 film noir - full of danger-vibes.  Andrew's guitar is joined by sax from Bill McHenry, trumpet from Russ Johnson, trombone by JC Sanford, bass from John Hebert & drums from Mark Ferber.  The idea (I think) is for the listener to conjure up their own visions of what the music means to them, & since it's loosely based on that film from '52, you know it will be fraught with emotion.  It definitely falls into the "jazz category", yet the compositional skill displayed by the sonic brush Green paints the tunes with will make you soon realize that your ears are in the presence of a master!  I keep hearing re-runs of Perry Mason, Della Reese & Paul Drake dialogues over the tracks... ha! ha!  Just kidding, Andrew - this is high talent playing that will be enjoyed by jazz listeners of all stripes on through the next couple of decades!  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj 

The Jeff Presslaff Trio - RED GODDESS: Some very pleasant original piano compositions from Jeff - he's joined by Julian Bradford's bass & drums from Scott Senior.  The beauty of Jeff's tunes is that while they clearly express the "spirit" of jazz (in all it's glory), they aren't (just) "thinking man's jazz"... in other words, they vibrate with a clear passion for the playing of music that is at times shaded in dark tones (he plays some beautiful chords), but always resolves into the better qualities on the human side of things.  This is, in fact, one of the tightest trio efforts I've heard (yet) this year... they never miss a beat together, & (literally) shine on pieces like (my favorite) "'Nother Monkish Thing" - each of the players had something clear to say on this one, but it's definitely got the "circles within squares" quality that the Monk name inspires... Jeff's chord work also serves a wonderful rhythm counterpoint to both bass & drums on that track.  If you're looking for something something a bit more playful, you'll like the title track (click above)... just as solid rhythmically, but with a far deeper shade of "introspective" to it.  I'm very impressed with the talent quotient on this album, & expect we will all be hearing much more from Jeff & crew in the months & years to come.  I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all who love jazz with a trio flavor.  Visit to get more information.   Rotcod Zzaj 

Seamus Blake Quartet - LIVE IN ITALY: There is a lot to be impressed about with tenor saxophonist Blake's work - I actually heard him up in Seattle last month at a jam session from our friend Bill Anschell, along with a whole host of other great players.  On "Live In Italy", a 2-CD set, there are several original compositions, as well as pieces from Duke, John Scofield & (even) Debussy's "String Quartet In G minor".  It was Seamus' original composition "The Jupiter Line" that captured my heart & soul, though for favorite tune on the album... while Blake's tenor is very much "present" & in the forefront, David Kikoski's keyboards (very Zawinul-like in places), Rodney Green's drums & Danton Boller's double bass all join together in a (somewhat) "Weather Report" fashion to carry you to joy at the farthest stellar reaches. If you're looking for something a bit more on the bluesy side of things, try "Way Out Willie" (another Blake composition)... some NICE wah-wah kind of thing on there at about 2:30, but it's a really funky tune that will stay in my rotation for a long time to come (maybe because it clocks in at 11:58 - last almost the whole drive home).  Another tune that deserves mention (a John Scofield composition) was "Dance Me Home" - a genuine smoker that closes out the album leaving you in a "jump drive" state that will have you coming back to these tunes over & over again.  This is one of the best LIVE albums I've listened to this year, & it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj 

Bill Anschell-Brent Jensen - WE COULDN'T AGREE MORE: Our thanks to Bill, who sent a copy of this wonderful CD (very) shortly after I met him for the first time up in Bellevue, at that city's Jazz Festival for 2009 (here's a LIVE SHOW REVIEW you can read).  The playing on "We Couldn't Agree More" is just as accomplished as every time I've reviewed him (or heard him live), but it's slightly different, in that this is my first listen to a duo setting, and the playing was nearly all "on-the-fly".  I've been astounded by Bill's dexterity ever since I first heard his music... though I've never heard Jensen's work before (that I know of, anyway), he's got a fantastic ability to "bounce" his notes right in between Anschell's roving fingers, which really keeps the pieces moving, especially on tracks like "You and the Night and the Music"... totally fluid, their rendition of this Dietz/Schwartz composition will make you feel like you're (just) floating through the night in your "Maidenform" (remember that, or am I dating myself too much?).  The original Anschell/Jensen piece that takes me back to my earliest memories of the joy that jazz can bring, & my favorite on the CD, was "You Aren't All That"... it's on this song that I felt the duo's true agreement of spirit & how to express it through jazz that satisfies one's soul!  Any listener who loves piano-jazz will find this a treasured album for years & years to come.  I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "most inspiring jazz duo".  Get more information (as well as show schedules & such) at  (& be sure to tell Bill that Zzaj sent you)!   Rotcod Zzaj

Troum - EALD-GE-STREON: I couldn't find audio samples via Google, but there's a great selection of VIDS at YOUTUBE... the music is all-encompassing, definite electronica that takes no prisoners... you must listen to this one with headphones - anything else is heresy!  This isn't the kind of music I listen to on the way to work ev'ry morning - it would cause accidents, 'coz it's very easy to get totally wrapped (or warped, if you prefer) in what they are doing that you won't be able to find your mind - it's just possible, I believe, that music like this could be used to jam the enemies (whoever they are) minds - to the point where they would be wandering 'round in such a state of trance they would just drop their lasers & rifles & space out!  I keep losing my train of thought while writing this review - & that's about the highest compliment I can pay to the perpetrators of "Ealod-Ge-Streon" - all those pretty & descriptive phrases reviewers have in their pockets, ready for "instant written glory" have faded from my brain.  Let's put it this way - this is some HOT POOP, peepz - the 2-CD set gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially if your listening forte is high-talent drone with quality!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Mimi Jones - A NEW DAY
: We seldom "push" CD's to the top of the review stacks, but ev'ry once in a while, the first listen (just kinda') DICTATES that our thoughts about the music we're hearing MUST be written down in/of the moment.  It's an odd comparison, in a certain sense, but it's like the very first time I listened to a Joni Mitchell album... I knew that the artist's vision was part of a new paradigm... & Mimi Jones composes & plays a blend of bluesy jazz on this debut CD that IS the "new music" (release date is September 15th, 2009, so get it NOW)!  Her bass work is strong & solid, and her vocals reach right down to the depths of your soul... it's not like she's trying to sell you her soul, either... no tricks, just highly talented compositions that fuse together all the elements, all the influences she's had (whether in this incarnation or previous ones) into something you will desire to listen to - over & over & over again!  There is also a (sort of) "Prince-like" quality to some of the tunes, like "Suite Mary", but with a totally jazz bent, & no gimmicks - just a soaring horn front joined by a delicious Wurlitzer section, all underpinned by Mimi's driving bass lines.... simply grand!  It was actually the second track in, "Watch Yo Step", with one of the gutsiest guitar blues leads I've ever heard & a totally husky vocal by Ms. Jones, that gets played numerous times daily... absolutely my favorite track on the CD... if it was just blues, it would probably be kind of "ordinary", but this is one of the jazziest pieces I've ever heard.  This Ms. Mimi is someone you will be hearing from for a long time to come - & remember, you heard that here first!  This CD gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, as well as the "PICK" of the YEAR for "most creative artist"!  Get more information at or at & be sure to tell Mimi that Zzaj sent you, please.   Rotcod Zzaj 

Radam Schwartz - BLUES CITIZENS: An even-numbered (10) collection of not-at-all-odd blues/jazz tunes that will have all of us blues organ fanatics fantasizing, no doubt (in my mind) whatsoever.  This is one of the smokin'est blues organists I've heard in many years (& believe me, I've listened to lots of them... Schwartz originals make up half of the cuts on the album, & of course, those are the ones that had my ears in spasms, especially cuts like (my favorite on the CD) "Pay Up", which took me all the way back to old Eddie Harris stuff, especially when the sax kicked in... but it features a hard-luck-down&out rap that would make anyone feel those ol' blues the group is playing... tight, tight, tight... Radam on B-3 (of course), Bill Saxton's tenor sax, Bruce Williams on alto sax, Eric Johnson's guitar & Cecil Brooks III on drums... these guys know where those ol' down&durty blues come from, that's clear for all to hear!  For something a bit more laid-back, but still with a great soulful groove, you'll listen to "Grieve But Be Brief" over & over again... & the title track (click on it above to listen to it) will get ya' steppin' out all over th' floor!  A really nice varied set of tunes that all who have blues in the backyard will find MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by this listener.  Get more information at  Rotcod Zzaj  

Nicholas Urie Large Ensemble - EXCERPTS FROM AN ONLINE DATING SERVICE: If "absolute hoot" is what you go after for your listening pleasure, you know genuinely "fun" music, you will HAVE to get this splendid debut CD from Nicholas & his orchestra.  The credit/player list is (just) too long to lay out for you here, but suffice it to say that there are lots of folks we've reviewed here before... players like Chris Speed, Frank Carlberg & a whole host of others.  Christine Correa's vocals, which are like mini-opera versions of phone extracts one might imagine taking place as a part of a dating service remind me (in some ways) of Kitty Brazelton's efforts... you'll laff yer' bunzoff in certain sections - especially when the vocals start to sound like the "personal ads" in the back of certain LA newspapers.  Too often these large orchestral jazz ensembles kind of "bury the talent", but under Urie's conductorship, it floats right to the top, & the musical sections are superbly interspersed with Correa's vocals.  It's an adventure in/of itself & clocks in at 52:05 (on my player, anyway), so prepare yourself for nearly an hour of laughs a minute.  I give this initial effort a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but can tell you that I expect we'll be hearing a LOT more music from this young composer!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj

Soulfood - ZEN LOUNGE: A new release from our friend DJ Free is always welcome, because I know before I even pop the CD in for the first listen that my aural appendages will be pleasantly surprised.  Some folks think that "chill" or "global" is an instant trigger for "boring", or "cliché-like" music.  I can tell you (after many years of reviewing this cat's work) that that is NEVER the case with the material he has sent me... "Zen Lounge" takes us on a trek through some wonderfully soaring terrain, up near the skies and on out into the outer edges of the music-verse, but without losing sight of the underlying rhythms that keep our human emotions running!  He's joined by DJ Jezus Juice (from Israel) who adds his own high talents to the mix, & together they create something that is clearly "new", yet fully accessible (& in many cases, danceable).  One of my favorite pieces is "Go Zen", in great part because of the subtle percussion, but also because they have lots of well-nuanced vocals and background sounds that will blow your mind, especially if you do it with the headphones & an enhancer.  If you're more inclined to those kind of beats that will shatter the glass in your car as you drive down the road, listen to the intro (& follow-through) on "Tiki Lounge", but if you're like me, you'll find tunes like "Spicy Rice" your favorite (as did I) - just because it's different & clearly shows the extreme talent these artists have for the music they love to play.  I give this CD our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj 

Rainbow Jimmies - THE MUSIC OF JOHN HOLLENBECK: A whole host of very talented players join to play John's compositions, as well as his intricate drumming... if you were inclined to label his music to make it fit into some preconceived notion of what you think it should be, you would need the services of someone with training in psychology.  This is not music that "fits" (easily) into a category; strong elements of jazz, yet with the heavy focus on violins, you will hear something definitely akin to chamber music - teasing you into thinking you are listening to neo-classical.  The addition of vibraphone on the "Gray Cottage Study" pieces adds an element that has strong affinity with the jazz side of things, but the pieces remain mysterious... this will challenge some listeners who believe music should "only sound one way" (or the other).  Listeners who enjoy something different will find this musical experience more an adventure than a challenge, though... it's best listened to with headphones, and you should map out (just over) an hour, so you can absorb the entire CD at one sitting.  Those with more of a bent for jazz-oriented music will probably agree with my pick of "Gray Cottage Study #6 "jazz hands" as a favorite, but those who enjoy something more adventurous will probably settle on the two Ziggurat tracks ("Ziggurat (exterior)" & "Ziggurat (interior)") for your repeated listens.  My absolute TOP pick, though, was the title track (click on the link at the beginning of this review to hear it), which took me (somehow) back to Frank Zappa's "Jazz From Hell" sagas... it may have been special guest Mark Stewart's guitar that made that come to mind, but no matter, it is an invigorating yet totally unique piece that will be incorporated into my "forever" playlist, along with a few others from this grand sonic adventure.  This one gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj

Bob Rodriguez - PORTRAITS: Bob's "Art of Life Records" (February 2009) CD release has him playing a broad range of solo piano tunes from composers as different as Rodgers & Hammerstein to Bill Evans to Monk... very tasteful and expressive playing that will capture your ears immediately, unless you're so immersed in disco phunkiness that you can't relax & listen!  His rendition of Monk's "'Round Midnight" is uniquely "his" & full of surprises at every change... just loved his full-stroke left hand approach - heavy tones that blend perfectly in with the spirit of Thelonius' original composition - it's my favorite version of that tune in many years.  "Spring Is Here", from Rodgers & Hammerstein, will make you bloom unless you're already a resident of zombie-land, caught up in TV commercials & other 21st Century puffery - a truly sweet sounding performance.  If you love solo piano, you'll certainly agree with my declaration that it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED with superb music that will stay at the top of your "reflective" mood playlists!  Get more information at   Rotcod Zzaj


Sour Owl - SOUR OWL: Ev'ry once in awhile (particularly in the Magickland of OlyWa), a musical group forms up that really (really) catches my ear... it may classify itself as a "jazz" band, or "experimental", "funk", or "something" to label the kind of music it plays... the beauty of this group (led by guitarist Lynn Henson) is that they call themselves "unclassifiable".  I know we've all heard bands lay claim to such, then lay some absolute garbage down upon our aural appendages... mish-mosh stuff that sounds like everything we've ever heard, but with no credibility whatsoever in the playing... no spirit, no energy.... well, folks, this Owl ain't no pretender to th' throne - they (literally) smoke (but we won't go into that inside story here - ha! ha!).  If you listen closely to my favorite track on the album, "Knifadactyl", you'll hear shades of many past influences... "Tower Of Power", "George Duke", certainly (one of my heroes) "Frank Zappa" (I'd swear I heard a lil' Yellow Snow in there... ha! ha!), hell, even "Funkadelics"; I think I've already worn out that phroggin' .mp3 file, I've spun it so many times - real POWER in that track (e'en tho' it could stand to be about twice as long).  The player list is long & distinguished - I've already mentioned Lynn Henson's guitar work, plus local legends like Tommy Russell doing flute & bari/soprano sax & Steve Munger on tenor sax (both of Obrador fame)... Scott Peoples on drums, Skyler Blake doing lead guitar & Dave Hopper on bass guitar... rhythms are exceptionally tight, but the "vibe" is loose & fun all the way through!  I've no doubt that Cheech (or Chong, for that matter) would have smoke blowin' out o' ALL their appendages if they could catch this act... every player will scorch your ears & the hooks & licks will stay in your head for days - I predict this band will be HEAVY on the charts over the next 2 or 3 years.  If it's high talent with PUNCH you're lookin' for in your listening, this comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, & gets the "PICK" of this issue for "highest energy band"... which, in the Zzaj book is the largest compliment that can be paid, since ENERGY is what this 'zine has always been about!  Get more information at    Rotcod Zzaj








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