Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Ferret Brothers - Guitarists In Django’s Shadow (1)

Georg Lankester
Georg Lankester tells the story of the Ferret brothers – contemporary Gypsy guitarists of Django Reinhardt. The story is in three parts, below follows the first part, part two and three are published later.

The Ferret Brothers
The name  Ferret or Ferré does remind us of a great musical family that later produced a prodigy called BoulouFor many decades these gypsies (no Manouches) were living in the French town of Rouen and not in a caravan like eg. the Reinhardt / Weiss family. Father Gousti  and mother Douderou had two daughters and three sons.This article deals with those three sons, called Pierre Joseph (“Baro”), Etienne (“Sarane”) and Pierre Jean (“Matelo”). Further their cousin Renë (“Challain” Ferret) should also be mentioned, since he was more or less considered as a ‘fourth brother’.

The Ferrets lived for many decades in France although they were of Andalusian origin. We can really speak of a musical family: Douderou was very fond of Operette and the girls became singers. The three boys were soon familiar with string instruments since their uncles, who used to play these, learned them the technique. In those years the banduria (a Spanish kind of mandolin) and  the banjo were popular instruments;  much later the guitar would become important.

In the Thirties Baro and Sarane left home and went to Paris; rather soon they formed part of the world of entertainment while playing in Russian cabarets and at balls where they accompanied accordionists. The French Musette which started around 1900, had become very popular and the top accordionists preferred to be backed up by gypsies because of their rhythm and control of string instruments .

The role of the banjo
This instrument on which the young Django Reinhardt was a star player, gradually became less popular for the following reason: In 1928 Django – who was involved in a fire accident -  became seriously injured. However, during his recovery period  he learned to play guitar and developed an amazing technique and great virtuosity despite a crippled left hand. He came back in the Parisian world of music, at first to accompany singers, later playing with jazz musicians (e.g. saxophonist André Ekyan). From late1934 he became one of the star players in the Hot Club quintet next to violinist Stéphane Grappelli.

Django’s  unparallelled guitar playing made great impression on his fellow gypsies and consequently many changed from banjo to guitar. So the former Musette changed into Swing Musette whereby accordionsts were backed by guitarists, one of which was Matelo, a master in this kind of music. 

The career of the three Ferret brothers

Pierre 'Baro' Ferret (1937)
Pierre “Baro” Ferret (1908 – 1976)
His official  name was Joseph, however, he was usually called Baro and later Mr. Camembert since he liked cheese. He started to play the Spanish banduria, but then switched to banjo, very popular in the Musette. And in the Thirties he really would become an exceptional guitarist. Already in 1931 he and Sarane left home in order to settle in the French capital and he found work in the Musette scene and soon made recordings with the well-known accordion player Guérino – (NOTE Django recorded with this artist on banjo in 1928.).
Sarane (g, left) and Baro (g, right) with accordionist Guérino’s orchestra 
Baro was such a talent that his solo playing later almost equalled that of Django.The two guitarists respected each other and often played together, then experimenting for fun. The musicians had, however, totally different characters: Django was in fact a good man, Baro was not a very easy person and often he came in touch with bad guys, sometimes even swindlers. Due to his friendship with Django, serious problems fortunately could be avoided.
Starting from 1935 Baro became a member of the Hot Club quintet and we can listen to his fine rhythm in recordings from those days, e.g. as released by the French company “Frémeaux”. On top of that I refer to his recordings of beautiful waltzes issued in 1939 by the Trio Ferret with solos of Baro accompanied by his brother Matelo and Maurice Speilleux on bass. Some titles: “Ma Théo”, “Gin-Gin” (also known as “Chez Jacquet”) and the most famous gypsy waltz composed by Gusti Malha “La valse des Niglots”. 


And even before, Baro recorded “Wind & Strings” with Albert Ferrari (tenor sax), the “Swing Valse” and “Swing Cocktail” joined by Gus Viseur on accordion.
Baro Ferret (left) with accordionist Gus Viseur (late 1930s)
Here's an example from the recordings with Gus Viseur, Swing Cocktail 1938


In the summer of 1940 the guitarist played with Viseur’s orchestra and provided some beautiful solos – I can recommend those records.
Jo Privat
After the war he joined accordionist Jo Privat, who since many years was the owner of the well-known “Balajo” club. This formation produced hits from those years as well as Reinhardt compositions. Sometimes, when people listened they thought that it was Django himself who played the solos !
The Baro Ferret Ensemble (late 1940s)
In 1949 Baro formed his own group The Baro Ferret Ensemble and recorded several titles for the Odeon label. Those performances include Jo Privat, guitarist Jacques Montagne and Jéremie Grand’son double bass. The recordings show elements of the new American jazz form Bebop which inspired Baro to even create Bop-Waltzes. His compositions show a great musicality and a new approach e.g. an  6/8 jazz rhythm.


During the Fifties he recorded again with his ensemble and a piano player; these are more modern themes which remind us of Django’s last recording sessions.  At that time Baro owned a bar where gypsies dropped by to play and where he often joined them. However, slowly the interest declined and eventually he sold the bar.
Pierre 'Baro' Ferret (1908-1976)
The guitarist died at the age of 68 years, more or less in silence. During his career he was in fact never in the spotlights.

Georg Lankester
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Jo
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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Anthony 'Bus' Etri - Legendary Big Band Swing Jazz Guitarist

Bus Etri (1917 - 1941) 
The name and recordings of jazz guitarist Bus Etri may only be known by a handful of jazz guitar nerds today. However, Bus Etri's contribution to big band swing jazz in the 1930s and early 1940s ought to be better known among fans of swing jazz guitar. Unfortunately, only few details about Bus Etri's biography and career are available, but here are the few facts I could find. Anthony 'Bus' Etri was born in Manhattan, NYC, June 22, 1917 and died in a car crash in Culver City, Ca., Aug. 21, 1941. No info available about his life and musical background until his name and guitarplaying are featured with recordings by the Hudson - DeLange Orchestra from 1935 - 38. When this co-lead orchestra dissolved in 1938, Bus Etri continued for some time as a member of Will Hudson's orchestra which recorded a couple of sessions for Brunswick under the name of Will Hudson and his Seven Swingsters featuring Etri on guitar. However, at some point in 1938 Bus Etri switched to Charlie Barnet's orchestra and was a stable member of this organisation for the remain of his shortlived career. Both as a member of the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra and Charlie Barnet's big band Bus Etri contributed with his remarkable and excellent jazz guitar playing on stage and records, below I'll insert some recorded examples that have been uploaded at You Tube.
The Hudson - DeLange Orchestra
March 10 and 11, 1937 the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra recorded nine titles for the Master/Brunswick label in New York, four have guitar soli by Bus Etri - they are: Stardust, College Widow, Bugle Call Rag and Wake Up And Live. Personnel of the orchestra include Charles Mitchell, Howard Schaumberger, Jimmy Blake (tp), Edward Kolyer (tb), George Bohn, Gus Bivona (cl, as), Ted Duane (cl, ts), Pete Brendel (as, bar), Mark Hyams (p), Bus Etri (g), Doc Goldberg (b), Nat Pollard (dm), Ruth Gaylor (vo), Will Hudson (arr, dir), Eddie de Lange (vo, arr, dir). Below is inserted the audio videos of Stardust and Bugle Call Rag 


From the same session, Bus Etri's guitar solo playing is also featured in Bugle Call Rag 


The remarkable hot chord style contributions and short single string statements by Bus Etri in the two above examples are a hallmark of his guitar playing style at this point of his career, also noticed in the recording of On The Alamo by the Hudson-DeLange orchestra from April 8, 1938


Charlie Barnet and his orchestra (c.1941)
As mentioned above, in 1938 (- probably between August and November) Bus Etri switched to the big band orchestra of Charlie Barnet and was a mainstay with this organisation until his untimely death in August 1941. Charlie Barnet and his orchestra made a considerable number of recordings for Bluebird and further was presented in transcription sessions and various live performances during the late 1930s and early 1940s featuring Bus Etri on guitar. However, much of this material outside the studio recordings by the band is still undiscovered and hard to find, thus the number of live recordings featuring Bus Etri guitar soli contributions is unknown so far.
Tappin' At The Tappa_Bluebird B-10584-B
Among the studio recordings by Charlie Barnet's orchestra for Bluebird, the first registered solo by Etri is featured in a session recorded in NYC, Jan. 3rd, 1940 on Tappin' At The Tappa - a tune by Barnet and heavily inspired by the Ellington sound. Personnel include Robert Burnet, Billy May, John Owens, Lyman Vunk (tp), Spud Murphy, Don Ruppersberg, Bill Robertson (tb), Noni Bernardi, James Lamare, Gene Kinsey (as), Charlie Barnet (as, ts, ldr), Kurt Bloom (ts), Bill Miller (p), Bus Etri (g), Phil Stevens (b), Cliff Leeman (dm).


Bus Etri's solo contribution at this recording of Tappin' At The Tappa is still played on the acoustic archtop guitar and his style of playing has not changed fundamentally compared to the mix of chords and short single string statements known from the contributions with the Hudson - DeLange Orchestra. However, two months later Bus Etri has changed to amplified/electric guitar and now a new dimension in his playing style is revealed in a session with Charlie Barnet for Bluebird on March 21, 1940. Two titles from this session have soli by Etri, they are featured in A Lover's Lullaby and Wanderin' Blues
Wanderin' Blues_Bluebird B-10721-B
The audio of Wanderin' Blues has also been uploaded at You Tube and is inserted below


Jazz critic Jan Evensmo writes in his solography on Bus Etri (- free available as a downloadable pdf document, here) about this recording of Wanderin' Blues, quote: “Wanderin’ Blues”! Mostly played single string in the bottom register, it is a 100% original conception of the blues. Ranging from down-to-earth blue phrases to an almost Ravellian atmosphere in bars 9-10, purposefully played out of beat, the solo gives altogether the impression of a true innovator on the instrument." Bus Etri's switching to the amplified/electric guitar implied a noticeable change in his playing style, now more focused on single string contribution. This may be the reason why some critics have characterized Bus Etri as 'the white Charlie Christian', a comparison also evident in the recording of Flying Home by the Charlie Barnet orchestra from May 8, 1940, although Etri's short solo in this take of the famous swing tune does not copy Charlie Christian, well, you may judge for yourself



Two more examples of Bus Etri's contributions on amplified/electric guitar with Charlie Barnet are inserted below to further characterize his playing style. Here is first a recording for Bluebird on Jan. 7, 1941 of Charlie Barnet's  Blue Juice 


Jan Evensmo writes in his Bus Etri solography about Blue Juice, quote: "It seems that BE had a particular knack for the blues, and he plays very well here, mixing a driving single string with strange chords, creating rather unique results, not to be mistaken for any other contemporary guitar player, nor later ones. Note how he uses several of Charlie Christian’s tricks, adapted to his own needs." The same applies to the transcription recording of Uptown Blues from about the same time, inserted below from You Tube as the last example here of the jazz guitar playing style by the legendary Bus Etri 


The above inserted photo of Bus Etri is copied from the updated solography by Jan Evensmo, which also features another illustration in color of the guitarist. The solography by Jan Evensmo is a must for serious researchers of Bus Etri's recorded legacy and I strongly recommend you to download the pdf , if you like to  have a detailed outline of registered soli contributions by this excellent guitarist.
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Jo
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bye Bye Blues - A Popular Standard

Sheet music of Bye Bye Blues
Bye Bye Blues is a popular standard tune performed by numerous artists and bands. It was  written by Fred Hamm, Dave Bennett, Bert Lown, and Chauncey Gray and published in 1925. Fred Hamm and his orchestra recorded the initial version of the song for Victor in May 1925 as one of the label's first electrically processed recordings


Fred Hamm and his orchestra c. 1925 (YouTube still)
Fred Hamm and his Orchestra were a dance band from Chicago that was managed by Edgar Benson of Benson Orchestra fame. Hamm's Orchestra performed at the Marigold Garden in Chicago from 1923 to 1925. In 1925 Fred Hamm took over the leadership of the Benson Orchestra and recorded some sides for Victor that year. Fred Hamm recorded again in 1929 under the name of Fred Hamm and his Collegians (info from Red Hot Jazz Archive).
Sheet music front feat. Bert Lown
In July 1930 Bert Lown (co-writer of the song) recorded Bye Bye Blues for both Columbia and Hit of the Week as Bert Lown & His Hotel Biltmore Orchestra, below is inserted the Columbia 2258-D version recorded July 21 1930 in NYC


Frankie Trumbauer
Frankie Trumbauer and his orchestra recorded their version of Bye Bye Blues for Okeh September 8, 1930 in New York, vocal refrain by Smith Ballew


Cab Calloway
Cab Calloway and his orchestra recorded a great big band swing version of Bye Bye Blues in 1940 featuring solos by Chu Berry (ts), Dizzy Gillespie (tp) and Tyree Glenn (vib)


Benny Carter
In April 1946 Benny Carter (as) recorded a swinging version of Bye Bye Blues with Arnold Ross (p), Allan Reuss (g), Artie Bernstein (b) and Nick Fatool (d) for Keynote in Los Angeles


Stan Getz
The last version of Bye Bye Blues to be presented here was recorded by the Stan Getz Quartet in 1957 for the HMV album titled The Soft Swing. Personnel include Stan Getz (ts), Mose Allison (p), Addison Farmer (b) and Jerry Segal (d)

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Jo
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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Swing Ukulele By Gerald Ross Revisited

Gerald Ross (photo by Peggy Brisbane, 2015)
Gerald Ross is a multi-instrumentalist mastering various string instruments like guitar, lap steel guitar, bass, mandolin - and ukulele. With a musical background as selftaught he has had a career playing professionally since 1970. In later years, he has successfully focused on the ukulele as a solo voice applying excellent fingerstyle technique in his playing the small instrument and by adding a repertoire of popular music, jazz and swing in his own well elaborated arrangements. Mr. Ross has released six self produced CDs on his own Uke Tone label devoted to the ukulele (- more info, here).  I was thrilled to find and explore his appropriately titled Swing Ukulele CD some years ago and I wrote a small review, here. Just recently I found Gerald Ross' latest release on Spotify and like to point you to this CD here
Gerald Ross, Absolute Uke (UT-2306, 2015)
The CD has fourteen tracks and the repertoire is a mixed bag of Swing, Jazz, Pop, a.o. including Gerald Ross' arrangements of Ellington & Strayhorn's Take The 'A' Train, Gershwin's Sweet And Lowdown and the Swing-Era standard Rose Room. Further there are Latin pieces like You Belong To My Heart/Solamente Una Vez and Wave by Jobim, and you also have great arrangements and performance of popular tunes like Under Paris Skies, September Song, Sugar, All Of Me a.o.. About the repertoire Gerald Ross writes in the sleeve notes, quote: "It's all music to me. Whether it's labeled Swing, Jazz, Pop, Latin, or Folk ... the styles all feature a memorable melody and a strong rhythmic pulse that have filled the airwaves and dance floors for years. Yes, there are distinct differences between them which are well-documented by music historians and theorists. But to me, their similarities far outweigh their differences." - This attitude to the chosen tunes at the disc makes it a homogeneous product of a creative mind and a very skilled musician, who knows his sources and how to present the music in an appealing form which meets the listener immediately. I highly recommend the CD to anyone with an open ear for great music performance and enjoable tunes evoking good vibrations and bright memories of a time when a musical theme was immediately recognizable and easily digestible. The CD is available for purchase at Gerald Ross' website, here. - Below some examples of music featured at the CD from uploaded videos at YouTube. Here is first Gerald Ross' version of Take The 'A' Train 


Next, a great version of You Belong To My Heart/Solamente Una Vez 


Finally to end this small review, here's Gerald Ross' rendition of All Of Me 


More videos featuring Gerald Ross at his You Tube Channel, here
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Jo
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Jazz Guitar Of Mary Osborne

Mary Osborne
Mary Osborne (1921-1992) was an American jazz guitarist, who is almost forgotten today but should be ranked among the crop of the cream of the 1940s pioneers of the electric jazz guitar. - Osborne was born in Minot, North Dakota. She learned violin as a child and could also play guitar and bass by age 15. She heard Charlie Christian play in Al Trent's band at a stop in Bismarck, North Dakota; Christian became one of her most prominent influences. She went on to tour with Buddy Rogers, Dick Stabile, Terry Shand, Joe Venuti, and Russ Morgan, and recorded with Mary Lou Williams, Beryl Booker, Coleman Hawkins, Mercer Ellington, Ethel Waters, Wynonie Harris a.o.. - Below I'll insert some examples of Mary Osborne's excellent playing which have been uploaded at You Tube.

Signature 15087-A, Blues In Mary's Flat
Mary Osborne had recorded her own Blues In Mary's Flat together with Stuff Smith in 1944, two years later she recorded it again with her own trio for the Signature label. The trio has Sanford Gold on piano, Mary Osborne on electric guitar and Frenchy Couette double bass.


Signature 15087-B, Oops My Lady
The flip side of the Signature 15087 disc had another tune by the trio composed by Mary Osborne, Oops My Lady  


Mary Lou Williams
Mary Osborne was featured with pianist Mary Lou Williams' Girl Stars in a session for Continental recorded February 1946 in New York. The quintet include Mary Lou Williams (p), Mary Osborne (el g), Bea Taylor (b), Marjorie Hyams (d) and Bridget O'Flynn (vib). The session was produced by Leonard Feather, here is the quintet's version of Feather's tune titled D.D.T. 


At the same session was recorded a version of the well known He's Funny That Way, where Mary Osborne also gets a chance to add her pleasant vocal to the music


Coleman Hawkins
The day after the Mary Lou Williams recording session, Mary Osborne was featured with Coleman Hawkins And His 52Nd Street All Stars in four sides recorded for Victor in New York. The All Stars ensemble is an octet and include Charlie Shavers (tp), Pete Brown (as), Coleman Hawkins, Allen Eager (ts), Jimmy Jones (p), Mary Osborne (el g), Al McKibbon (b) and Shelly Manne (d). One of the recorded tunes titled Spotlite has Mary Osborne in the spotlight contributing great solo playing


To end this small portratit of a great jazz guitarist, here's a saved live recording on TV from 1958 - audio and video quality is not the best, however, the music is excellent. The tune played is I Surrender Dear 

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Jo
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Ruby Braff - George Barnes Quartet - Live in Berlin, 1975

L-r: Wayne Wright (rh g), Michael Moore (b), Ruby Braff (co), George Barnes (lead g)
In the spring of 1973 Ruby Braff and George Barnes had started a new group. They rehearsed once a week and it became a very special little quartet. They increased their number of weekly rehearsals to get ready for a concert at Carnegie Hall for the opening night of the New York Newport Jazz Festival. They became the highpoint of that festival. The group stayed together until some time in 1975 when Braff had a fall out with George Barnes.
Ruby Braff
George Barnes and Ruby Braff recorded five albums under their own name and a Rodgers & Hart tribute with Tony Bennett. The quartet toured the U.S. and Europe, collecting fans and receiving accolades from the press. But an increasing acrimony between the co-leaders took its toll on George’s health, and the quartet split up after their 1975 European tour.
George Barnes
From the 1975 European tour video recordings of the quartet's live concert in Berlin have been saved and uploaded at YouTube. Below I'll insert some examples from this concert in remembrance of a truly magnificent mainstream jazz quartet. - Here is first the quartet's version of the well known standard Sugar


Next, here is the quartet's version of Gershwin's Liza 


Another Gershwin tune, Summertime, also had a reading at the concert


Wayne Wright
It's George Barnes who plays the guitar solo parts, while his instrument colleague, Wayne Wright, takes care of a solid rhythm accompaniment togeter with double bass player Michael Moore, here the quartet plays the tune But not for me 


Michael Moore
Ruby Braff on cornet and double bass player Michael Moore have great interplay in the interpretation of Ellington's In my Solitude 


The last video recording from the 1975 Berlin concert featuring the Ruby Braff - George Barnes quartet to be inserted here has the quartet's version of Gershwin's They can't take that away from me

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Jo
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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Les Loups - Ramona (1928)

Hans & Jo (2008)
This week it has been three years since the founder of the Keep(it)swinging weblog and associated website and blogs, Hans Koert (June 1st, 1951 - September 4, 2014), passed away all too soon. Before it was too late I promised Hans to continue  his blogs, our friendship was too valuable to ignore our mutual engagement in the music we both shared our passion for. Thus, I have tried to follow in the footsteps of Hans in fields of the music we both liked. Our first and mutual project was to collect all available info on the legacy of Oscar Alemán. Hans succeeded in finishing the online Oscar Alemán Discography in time for the Oscar Alemán Centennial in February 2009. I assisted in collecting info and further published entries at the Oscar Alemán weblog documenting our research. In remembrance of this co-work and a great friendship, I'll post the latest entry from the Oscar Alemán weblog below to expose some info here at the keep(it)swinging blog as well on a famous 1920s tune recorded by Les Loups - Alemán's first musical partnership - in 1928: Ramona


Original sheet music (1928)
Ramona is a 1928 song, with lyrics written by L. Wolfe Gilbert and music by Mabel Wayne. It was created as the title song for the 1928 adventure film-romance Ramona (based on the novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson).
Original film poster(1928)
Ramona was recorded in 1928 for promotional appearances with Dolores del Río (star of the film) but not featured in the film itself. The film Ramona was the first United Artists film with a synchronized score, but was not a talking picture. Dolores del Río was a Mexican actress, who was the first major female Latin American crossover star in Hollywood, with a career in American films in the 1920s and 1930s. - Here is Ramona by Dolores del Rio (1928)


On record Ramona was a popular hit, usually performed as a romantic ballad, sometimes with a Latin inflection by "Whispering" Jack Smith and, in an idiosyncratic arrangement recorded on January 4th 1928, by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. The Paul Whiteman version, Victor 21214-A, featuring Bix Beiderbecke on cornet and vocal by Austin Young and Jack Fulton, was no. 1 for 3 weeks on the Billboard charts in 1928.


Other popular artists of the time such as Gene Austin and Ruth Etting a.o. also recorded Ramona and had hits with their versions, and outside the USA the song became popular thanks to the film. 

Les Loups, promo (courtesy by Erik Host)
Les Loups recorded their instrumental version of Ramona in Buenos Aires on August 30 1928 (- some sources have September 3rd or 24) for Victor, released at Victor 80950 (mx BAVE-44280-1) inserted below


Unfortunately, audio quality in the inserted video is rather noisy, but the music by Les Loups is as always delicate and well performed using the well known formula with Gastón on the hawaiian steel guitar and Oscar providing rhythm support on the conventional guitar.
The Blue Diamonds
Ramona remained popular with the public for a long time, a young generation of pop musicians in the 1960s revitalized the orignal waltz version of the song' in an upbeat version similar to rock'n'roll. The shown duo named The Blue Diamonds (a Dutch-Indonesian duo) became famous in 1960 with their version of the song, which reached the American Billboard Hot 100 at number 72 in 1960. It sold over 250,000 copies in the Netherlands (the first record to ever do so) and over one million copies in Germany by 1961.


Perhaps as a consequence of the success of Ramona in an upbeat arrangement, Oscar Alemán also featured the song this way in his live appearances with Los Cinco Caballeros during the 1960s. An example of a live performance of Ramona by Alemán and the Cinco Caballeros from a radio appearance at Radio el Mundo in 1965 has been saved and is inserted below to end this

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Jo
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