Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Music Circle 2014-15 season to include Roscoe Mitchell & Craig Taborn, Tim Berne, Thumbscrew, and more

New Music Circle has announced their 2014-15 season, with seven concerts featuring what looks to be an intriguing mix of edgy jazz and improvised music, electronics, and contemporary composition.

The schedule kicks off with a concert by Thumbscrew, featuring guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, on Friday, September 12 at Joe's Cafe, the "house concert" venue at 6014 Kingsbury Ave in the Central West End.

All NYC-based, Thumbscrew's members first worked together as the rhythm section for trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum's sextet, and decided to continue performing together as a trio, with the group serving as an outlet for each member's original compositions as well as improvisation.

The Bynum sextet played St. Louis in an NMC-sponsored show in November 2012, but that date included Ken Filiano on bass rather than Formanek. So, along with the welcome return of Halvorson, one of the more original guitarists to emerge in the last decade, this will be the first chance local listeners will have to hear the three of them together.

They'll be followed a double bill featuring separate sets by another NYC-based musician, drummer and sound artist Eli Keszler, and Berlin electronic musician Rashad Becker on Saturday, November 9 at the new location of The Luminary at 2701 Cherokee St.

Keszler's solo music and installations are said to draw inspiration from sources including free-jazz drummer Han Bennik and composer Conlon Nancarrow, while Becker, known for his work as a recording and mastering engineer as well as his own music, "utilizes realtime synthesis and sampling techniques that set into motion intricate sonic worlds that recall the complexities of human speech and various exotic aural phenomena."

Next up, multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell (pictured, top left) and keyboardist Craig Taborn will team up for a duo performance on Friday, December 5 at The Stage at KDHX, which is part of the station's new HQ at 3524 Washington Ave. in Grand Center.

Mitchell, a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), is considered one of the cornerstone players of the 1960s free-jazz movement. His highly influential 1966 album Sound was one of the first records to showcase the mix of composition and collective improvisation, on both traditional and non-traditional instruments, found in much of the subsequent work by the Art Ensemble and other AACM-affiliated groups.

Mitchell subsequently has led other bands including the Creative Arts Collective, the Sound Ensemble, and Note Factory; and also began teaching, most recently at Mills College in Oakland, where he's been the Darius Milhaud Chair of Composition since 2007.

Meanwhile, Taborn (pictured, center left) has gained a reputation as one of the more versatile keyboardists of his generation, playing piano, electric piano and organ with jazz artists including Chris Potter, Dave Holland, and James Carter as well as with Mitchell's Note Factory and other experimentally inclined players such as saxophonists Lotte Anker, David Binney, and Tim Berne; drummers Gerald Cleaver and Susie Ibarra; and many others.

After the holidays, the schedule resumes in January with the annual "NMC Showcase," which at this point is mostly TBA, though NMC's Jeremy Kannapell tells StLJN that St. Louis pianist Johanna Ballou, a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama who specializes in music by contemporary composers, will be one of the featured performers.

The following month, Lotte Anker, who played with Taborn and Cleaver in an NMC-presented concert here in February 2013, will return to perform on a split bill with cellist Okkyung Lee on Saturday, February 21 at Joe's Cafe.

Lee has collaborated frequently with visual artists and choreographers, as well as with musicians including Christian Marclay, Thurston Moore, Laurie Anderson, Ikue Mori, Jim O'Rourke, John Zorn, Chris Corsano, Leo Wadada Smith and Vijay Iyer. For more about Anker, check out this video showcase post that ran before her 2013 gig here.

St. Louis' own Darin Gray will be featured in the next concert, as the bassist, known for many years as a prolific and peripatetic improviser and more recently as sideman to alt-rocker Jeff Tweedy, will team with drummer Glenn Kotche in their duo project On Fillmore to play Saturday, March 14 at The Stage at KDHX.

The final concert of the 2014-15 season will feature saxophonist Tim Berne's quartet Snakeoil on Friday, May 8, also at The Stage at KDHX.

Known early in his career for drawing significant compositional and improvisational inspiration from former St. Louisan, Black Artists Group and World Saxophone Quartet co-founder Julius Hemphill, Berne has continued to champion Hemphill's legacy while carving out a musical identity of his own via his label Screwgun Records.

Snakeoil (pictured, lower left) which also includes Oscar Noriega (clarinet, bass clarinet), Matt Mitchell (piano), and Ches Smith (drums, percussion), serves as a vehicle for Berne's original compositions, and has released two albums on the ECM label.

In addition to their concert performances, Keszler, Becker, Mitchell and Taborn, and Gray and Kotche all will take part in some sort of workshop or educational program while they're here, though the details on those events have yet to be finalized.

So what's the takeaway here? As with any season schedule, one can quibble with individual selections, but as a fan of Halvorson and Taborn - neither of whom can be said to be exactly over-exposed - I'm happy to have them back, even if they did play here relatively recently. As for Mitchell, as best I can tell, the last time he performed in St. Louis was in the mid-1980s with the Art Ensemble, so his return is long overdue.

Add in the local debuts of the others - particularly Berne, who's been a noteworthy presence on the music scene for decades now - and all in all, it's shaping up to be the sort of season that induced Calvin Wilson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to name New Music Circle as the "Best Place to Hear Jazz" in the paper's recent "Go! List" issue. While other local presenters may have considerably more resources to work with, NMC continues to offer fans of adventurous music one of the best bangs for the buck in St. Louis.

All performances are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.. Single tickets are $20 for general admission, $10 students, for all shows except Mitchell and Taborn, which has a ticket price TBA.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jazz this week: St. Louis Cabaret Festival, Bull of Heaven, "All That Tap XXIII," and more

Though the dog days of August are looming nigh, it's a busy week for live jazz and creative music in St. Louis, with local festivals representing two different branches of jazz-related performance, a rare live gig from a much-talked-about experimental music duo, and a whole lot more. Let's go the highlights...

Tonight, Broadway star Faith Prince kicks off the St. Louis Cabaret Festival with a performance of her show "Have A Little Faith" at the Sheldon ballroom. Produced by Cabaret Project of St. Louis, the festival takes place in conjunction with their annual St. Louis Cabaret Conference. You can read more about it and see some video of Prince and the festival's other headliners in this post from last Saturday.

Tomorrow, the Cabaret Festival continues with longtime St. Louis favorite Ann Hampton Callaway (pictured) presenting "The Streisand Songbook" at the Sheldon.

Also on Thursday, pianist Kara Baldus, bassist Eric Stiller and drummer Kyle Honeycutt will play a free concert to wrap up Washington University's summer Jazz at Holmes series, which is being staged at Tisch Commons in the Danforth University Center; and the Tavern of Fine Arts will present their monthly "Experimental Arts Open Improv Night" with live improvised music.

On Friday, the Cabaret Festival presents a double bill at the Sheldon, with pianist and singer Billy Stritch opening with his own show entitled "I've Got Your Number: The Jazz of Cy Coleman" and then accompanying singer Marilyn Maye for her headlining set. Given Maye's status as one of the reigning grande dames of cabaret, this seems a likely sellout, so if you're interested in going, advance reservations would be a must.

Fortunately, if you can't get tickets in time, there will be plenty of St. Louis jazz vocal talent on display around town on Friday, too, as Miss Jubilee plays a free show at the St. Louis Art Museum; Wendy Gordon and pianist Arthur Toney return to DeLeo's Cafe & Deli; the Ann Dueren Trio performs at Il Bel Lago; and Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes will be swinging at Evangeline's. And should you be out west in Union, MO, you can catch singer Joe Mancuso's quartet at Domenic's Ristorante and Social Club (membership in la familia not required.).

On Saturday, the Cabaret Festival wraps up with the St. Louis Cabaret Conference Showcase at the Kranzberg Arts Center, featuring performances from a roster of up-and-coming singers in town to take part in the conference.

That same evening, the spotlight shines on yet another part of the jazz diaspora as the annual St. Louis Tap Festival comes to a conclusion with "All That Tap XXIII", presented this year at the Edison Theatre.

Pianist Carolbeth True's trio will provide the music for a lineup of dancers including the festival's founder, Robert L. Reed; Emmy Award-winning choreographer Jason Samuels Smith; dancer and author Karen Callaway Williams; the Israeli dance team of Avi Miller and Ofer Ben; Reed’s protégé Logan Miller; multi-media choreographer Bob Audy; Evan Ruggiero; Maud and Chloe Arnold, who were featured on this past season of the Fox network's So You Think You Can Dance; Martin 'Tre' Dumas III; and Megan Maltos.

Elsewhere around town on Saturday, the experimental duo Bull of Heaven will be in town for a rare live performance at Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center. As much a conceptual art project as a performing unit, Bull of Heaven reportedly have released hundreds of thousands of hours of audio since being formed in 2006, including individual "songs" that are hundreds of hours long, as well as "music puzzles" using some of the peculiarities and specifics of digital technology to deliver unexpected results. For a bit more about them, and links to interviews with the group's members, see this post.

And if all that's not enough for one Saturday night, the Funky Butt Brass Band will be making a comparatively rare non-holiday appearance at Off Broadway; and singer Tony Viviano will present his "Tony Bennett 88th Birthday Tribute" at Four Seasons Winery in Chesterfield.

On Sunday, the Friends of Scott Joplin will host their monthly "Ragtime Rendezvous" at the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site; singers Mary Dyson and Dianne Vaughn will be this week's guest stars with saxophonist Willie Akins' quartet at Troy's Jazz Gallery; and guitarist Dave Black will play at Pomme Cafe & Wine Bar.

For more jazz-related events in and around St. Louis, please visit the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar, which can be found on the left sidebar of the site or by clicking here. You also can keep up with all the latest news by following St. Louis Jazz Notes on Twitter at http://twitter.com/StLJazzNotes or clicking the "Like" icon on the StLJN Facebook page.

(If you have calendar items, band schedule information, news tips, links, or anything else you think may be of interest to StLJN's readers, please email the information to stljazznotes (at) yahoo (dot) com. If you have photos, MP3s or other digital files, please send links, not attachments.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bull of Heaven performing at LNAC
this Saturday, August 2

The experimental music duo Bull of Heaven will be in St. Louis to perform a rare live show at 8:00 p.m. this Saturday, August 2 at Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center.

Formed in 2006 by Denver musicians Clayton Counts and Neil Keener (and occasionally including assorted other contributors), Bull of Heaven (pictured) view music and sound as conceptual art. According to LNAC's news release, they "have recorded and released songs ranging from less than a second to several septillion years in length, all available for free download through the band’s website."

The band's Wikipedia page recounts various pieces lasting hundreds of hours or more, and also notes that their more recent output includes "various music puzzles" such as "MP3 files that are actually RAR archives, password-encrypted files, pieces embedded within other formats, such as PDF and EXE, pieces listed with negative song lengths, and a variety of SWF files."

Critics and journalists have described Bull of Heaven's music generally in terms of drones, noise and minimalism, but their individual works are said to incorporate a variety of influences, from spoken word and free jazz to prog rock, classical and more.

However, since they've played only a handful of live shows, even their presenters at LNAC are a bit in the dark as to what to expect: "Who knows? That is the beauty of conceptual art as music. What is guaranteed is a three to four hour performance, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience at an intimate venue that will have the audience sitting inches away from the performers."

For more about Bull of Heaven, see this 2011 feature from the Denver alt-weekly Westword, and this 2009 feature from the website Musique Machine.

Ticket for Bull of Heaven at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center will be $7 at the door.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chris Botti returning next June to Powell Hall

Trumpeter Chris Botti is coming back to St. Louis next year to perform with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on Friday, June 5 at Powell Symphony Hall.

The show is part of the SLSO's just-announced "Live at Powell Hall" series of pops concerts for next season. The series also includes at least one more performance that may be of interest to jazz fans, as singer Cary Hoffman will present his show "My Sinatra" with the SLSO on Sunday, June 21.

Other "Live at Powell Hall" programs will include tributes to the music of rock bands including the Beatles, U2, Eagles, and Journey and to folk-rockers Simon & Garfunkel; an evening of music from the video game "Final Fantasy"; and "Lost in Space," featuring theme music from a number of science fiction and fantasy films and TV series.

Botti (pictured) was in St. Louis last in February, 2012 to play at the Peabody Opera House, and he previously performed with the SLSO in February 2011 as part of what then was called "SLSO Presents". This time around, he'll be playing mostly selections from his 2012 album Impressions, for which he received the 2013 Grammy Award for "Best Pop Instrumental Album."

Single tickets for Chris Botti and the rest of the "Live at Powell Hall series are priced from $25 to $99, and will go on sale Monday, August 11 by phone at 314-534-1700, online at http://stlsymphony.org/, and at the Powell Hall box office.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
St. Louis Cabaret Festival



Today, let's take a look at some video clips featuring the stars of next week's St. Louis Cabaret Festival. The festival is produced by Cabaret Project of St. Louis, and takes place in conjunction with their annual St. Louis Cabaret Conference, a week-long event offering educational programs, professional development, networking, and so on for cabaret performers, both established and aspiring.

In the first video up above, Marilyn Maye, the Kansas native whose show business career spans parts of seven decades, performs a medley of songs by Johnny Mercer with Ted Firth (piano) and Steve Doyle (bass), recorded in June 2009 at Birdland in NYC.

Maye will co-headline a concert with pianist and singer Billy Stritch on Friday, August 1 at the Sheldon Concert Hall's upstairs ballroom.After the jump, you can see her, backed by Stritch on piano, in an undated but fairly recent clip singing "My Man."

Next, while online videos featuring Stritch as a solo performer do not seem to be in plentiful supply, we were able to find one of him singing and playing "I've Got the World on a String" and "I've Got Rhythm" at an awards show way back in 1999.

(You also can see a full hour of Maye and Stritch together right here in St. Louis courtesy of HEC-TV's I Love Jazz, which devoted a whole episode to them in September 2013 that, alas, cannot be embedded.)

Below that, there's a video tribute filmed at Birdland on the occasion of Maye's 85th birthday. Depending on your interest in the minutiae of NYC's cabaret and theater scenes, you may or may not want to watch the whole thing, but definitely check out the first part featuring a brief improvised blues duet between Maye and another of the festival's performers, longtime St. Louis favorite Ann Hampton Callaway.

Callaway has been a regular visitor here over the last decade and a half, and she'll be back at the Sheldon next Thursday, July 31, performing an evening of songs associated with Barbra Streisand.

You can see Callaway in the fifth clip teaming up with Maye again for an impromptu version of "It Had to be You" recorded in 2010 at a benefit gala for the Heartland Men's Chorus in Kansas City, and below that, there's a video compiling some highlights of her Streisand show.

The festival's final headliner, singer and actress Faith Prince, is represented by the final two clips. Although Prince is a well-known regular on Broadway thanks to starring roles in shows like Guys and Dolls, Bells Are Ringing and Annie, there seems to be essentially no online video of her performing in a cabaret setting.

So instead, we close out today with a clip of Prince singing "Adelaide's Lament" from Guys and Dolls on a 2001 TV special; and an interview she recorded for the program "Show People With Paul Wontorek."

For more about the St. Louis Cabaret Festival, you can hear Callaway and Cabaret Project of St. Louis' Tim Schall in this interview recorded Friday for the "Cityscape" program on KWMU (90.7 FM).

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

Friday, July 25, 2014

So What: Local News, Notes & Links

Here's the latest wrap-up of assorted links and short local news items of interest:

* The free concert featuring pianist Ptah Williams (pictured) this Sunday at Ivory Perry Park was previewed by Kenya Vaughn of the St. Louis American.

* Next week's St. Louis Cabaret Festival was previewed in an article on the website of St. Louis Public Radio, which also will cover the festival during the broadcast of the "Cityscape" program at noon today. You can hear it online at http://www.stlpublicradio.org/listen.php.

* Speaking of the Cabaret Festival, the event's organizers and Metrotix are offering a $10 discount online for tickets to the festival's opening show next Wednesday, which will feature Broadway star Faith Prince performing in the Sheldon Concert Hall's upstairs ballroom. To take advantage of the discount, use this link to access the Metrotix site, and when prompted enter the promo code THEATER.

* A new episode of HEC-TV's I Love Jazz, hosted by Don Wolff, has been posted online. It includes performances and interviews from the concert paying tribute to Richard McDonnell, the late founder of the MAXJAZZ record label, that was presented in May at Jazz at the Bistro, as well as coverage of the Bistro's renovation and expansion plans. You can watch online here, or consult your TV provider's program guide for air times.

* Regarding the Bistro renovations, Ruth Ezell of KETC's Living St. Louis did a story on Monday's program on how the construction is progressing; and a seating chart posted online by Jazz St. Louis shows what the layout for the room will look like post-expansion.

* And speaking of Richard McDonnell, jazz-related artwork remaining from his personal collection after a sale last month can still be seen and purchased by appointment, according to Jeff Appel, the photography dealer who's managing the sale of collection for the McDonnell family. "We have found some great St. Louis collectors for probably around 1/4 of the collection, but hundreds of great pieces remain, from signed festival posters to a variety of framed photographs and etchings," he said. To arrange a viewing at the MAXJAZZ offices in Webster Groves, email Appel at photoaddictappel at gmail dot com, or call or text him at 314-520-1572.

* Drummer Kimberly Thompson took a bit of time from her duties with the house band on NBC's Late Night With Seth Meyers to visit the makers of Gretsch drums and record a short promotional video.

* In this week's Miles Davis news, IndieWire has photos from the set of Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle's film about Davis that's now shooting in Cincinnati.

* On a related note, a post this week on the website Open Culture looked back at the night in 1970 when Davis opened a show for the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

* And for those who'd like to delve even further into the trumpeter's history, a new website, Scaled In Miles, offers a unique interactive timeline view of Davis' recording career.

* Pianist Stephanie Trick, who's been performing this summer in England and Europe, recently met British royalty when Prince Charles and Lady Camilla attended a concert of hers in Scotland.

* The Old Webster Jazz & Blues Festival once again will pick the opening act for this year's fest via a "Webster’s Got Talent" competition. The entry deadline is August 17, and applications are available for download at the festival's website.

Entrants will compete in public performances on Tuesday, August 26 and Thursday, August 28 at a location TBA, with the two winning bands from the semi-finals playing a final showdown on Thursday, September 4. The winner gets the first slot onstage at this year's OWJBF on Saturday, September 20. For more information, email webstersgottalent@gmail.com.

* Jazz radio update: On this week's edition of Radio Arts Foundation - St. Louis' “Somethin’ Else,” host Calvin Wilson will pay tribute to the late bassist Charlie Haden, with recordings of Haden's work as a bandleader, his collaborations with Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett, and more. "Somethin' Else" can be heard at 8:00 p.m. Saturdays on 107.3 FM, 96.3 HD-2, and online at http://www.rafstl.org/listen.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jazz this week: Alan Evans' Playonbrother, Tony Suggs, Dave Dickey Big Band, and more

As is typical for this time of year, the calendar of upcoming jazz performances in and around St. Louis over the next few days is a bit light on touring acts.

Fortunately, our local musicians have plenty going on in a variety of genres, from straight-ahead and swing to funk to cabaret to big band to experimental. Let's go to the highlights...

Tonight, drummer Alan Evans' trio (pictured), renamed Playonbrother since their last St. Louis appearance, will perform at The Gramophone, with Belagroove opening. With the group's latest recordings seemingly edging them toward a heavier, more guitar-oriented sound, and Evans singing lead on a number of tunes, there have definitely been some changes beyond just the name. So check out some video samples of their recent performances and read more about the two albums they've put out this year in this post from last Saturday

Also tonight, singer Joe Mancuso and guitarist Dave Black will perform a free concert for Washington University's Jazz at Holmes series at Tisch Commons in the Danforth University Center; the Funky Butt Brass Band plays a free outdoor concert at Bluebird Park in Ellisville; and up-and-coming cabaret performers Michaela Wolz, Sam Krausz, Tom Fields and Haylee Capstick will be showcased in the "First Stage Cabaret" at Kranzberg Arts Center.

On Friday, pianist Tony Suggs - originally from East St. Louis, veteran of many years with the Count Basie Orchestra, and lately a resident of Tokyo, Japan - is back home for a visit and will team up with drummer Montez Coleman and bassist Chris Thomas for a trio session at Cigar Inn

Also on Friday, the Joe Bozzi Band will perform at Evangeline's; the St. Louis Big Band plays for dancers at Casa Loma Ballroom; Wack-A-Doo will return to the Tavern of Fine Arts; and Miss Jubilee will be swinging at the Venice Cafe.

Elsewhere around town, singer Tony Viviano returns to Fortel’s in Creve Coeur; singer Erika Johnson, guitarist Tom Byrne and saxophonist Christopher Braig will be at EdgeWild Restaurant and Winery in Chesterfield; and guitarist Brian Vaccaro's trio with bassist Marc Torlina and Kyle Honeycutt will host a jam session, now recurring monthly, at the Wolf Public House

On Saturday, saxophonist Jim Stevens and band will be funking it up by the river at The Loading Dock in Grafton; and trumpeter Jim Manley and pianist Arthur Toney will play in the old "Just Jazz" space, now called the Mahogany Grill, at the Omni Majestic Hotel downtown.

Also on Saturday, Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes return to action at C.J. Muggs in Webster Groves; and saxophonist Willie Akins will be this week's guest with bassist Bob DeBoo and friends at the Kranzberg Arts Center. 

On Sunday, pianist Ptah Williams' trio will play a free outdoor concert at Ivory Perry Park, 800 N. Belt; and the Dave Dickey Big Band will play their regular fourth-Sunday show at Kirkwood Station Brewing Company, this month featuring singer Tom Heitman performing Frank Sinatra hits, plus an open dance floor.

Also on Sunday evening, Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center will present what's being billed as a night of experimental music featuring improvising saxophonist Curt Oren, Dear Rabbit, Lions Eat Grass, and saxophonist Dave Stone's Free Jazz Unit. 

Looking beyond the weekend, on Monday night saxophonist "Blind" Willie Dineen and the Broadway Collective will check back in for their monthly gig downtown at BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups.

For more jazz-related events in and around St. Louis, please visit the St. Louis Jazz Notes Calendar, which can be found on the left sidebar of the site or by clicking here. You also can keep up with all the latest news by following St. Louis Jazz Notes on Twitter at http://twitter.com/StLJazzNotes or clicking the "Like" icon on the StLJN Facebook page.

(If you have calendar items, band schedule information, news tips, links, or anything else you think may be of interest to StLJN's readers, please email the information to stljazznotes (at) yahoo (dot) com. If you have photos, MP3s or other digital files, please send links, not attachments.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Miles Davis Memorial Project
launches IndieGoGo campaign

Hoping to accelerate the pace of raising money to put a statue of legendary trumpeter Miles Davis in downtown Alton, the Miles Davis Memorial Project has turned to online crowd-funding via an IndieGoGo campaign.

Funding levels for potential supporters range from $1 up to $5,000, with rewards including various sorts of imprinted swag (buttons, T-shirts, can coozies); commemorative bricks and blocks to be placed around the site of the statue; and some higher-end packages, such as one including an original print of Davis by artist Jin Kan, and, at the $5,000 level, one that includes a bronze maquette of the Davis statue being designed by artist Preston Jackson.

Jackson, who grew up in Decatur and now lives in Peoria, has taught at the Art Institute of Chicago and created numerous works of public art in Illinois and elsewhere. His statue of Davis will be placed in front of the Lauschke Building at 117 W. Third St. in downtown Alton. (Davis was born in Alton in 1926; the family moved to East St. Louis the following year.)

The Miles Davis Memorial Project IndieGoGo campaign has a goal of $25,000 and will continue through Thursday, September 4. Unlike some other crowd-funding services such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo allows for partial funding of projects, so that money pledged will still go to the campaign even if the overall goal is not reached.
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