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AOW, March 21-28: Hank Jones, Upon Reflection

Nate Dorward

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I've played piano as long as I can remember, & somehow even though I'm no longer trying to hack it as a serious player somehow it's always the piano CDs that stay in heavy rotation. For this AOW, rather than a classic 1950s/1960s record, I thought I'd pick a contemporary piano trio date which is rarely too far from the CD changer here.



Hank Jones: Upon Reflection: The Music of Thad Jones (Verve/Gitanes, 1993)

1. Thad's Pad

2. Ah, Henry

3. The Summary

4. Little Rascal on a Rock

5. Upon Reflection

6. Lady Luck

7. Mean What You Say

8. Kids Are Pretty People

9. Ray-El

10. A Child Is Born

(all compositions by Thad Jones)

Hank Jones, piano; George Mraz, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; recorded 25-26 Feb 1993 by Rudy Van Gelder, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. (Good!) liner notes by Kenny Washington.

I'll post a more detailed response to this disc on the 21st. A few comments first, though:

1) One reason why I picked this for AOW is because I thought I might myself learn a bit more about Thad Jones' music from other boardmembers. I've heard his work as a sideman with Monk, have heard people speak respectfully for years of the Jones/Lewis big band, yet still haven't got any of his small or large group discs. Mea culpa.

2) These are some great compositions--yet Thad Jones seems rarely to attract the kind of devotion as a composer that contemporaries like (say) Herbie Nichols or Sonny Clark receive. I wonder why. I've seen the odd Jones tune in setlists (e.g. recently received a CDR by Scott Wendholt with "Mean What You Say" on it) but it's still pretty uncommon. There is one other album of Jones tunes I know of (but haven't heard), Tommy Flanagan's Let's.

3) One of the unique things about this disc is that Elvin Jones plays brushes for the whole thing--& sounds absolutely wonderful throughout. The exception is "A Child Is Born", more or less an explicit farewell to Thad, where Elvin takes his solo on mallets: it's very unusual to hear a drummer as the principal soloist on a ballad! & it works beautifully in context.

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Elvin is a masterful brush player, with a very special momentun and swing. Seems I'll have to get me this one ... love Hank's playing, of course, and Thad's compositions. Besides his big band charts, Thad still seems to be underrated as a trumpeter and composer.

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There is one other album of Jones tunes I know of (but haven't heard), Tommy Flanagan's Let's.

That is a wonderful album and I am looking forward to comparing the Jones recording. I will have to check to see whether any of the same tunes are covered, which would also make for an interesting comparison.

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Where are you guys ordering your copies from? I can't seem to find it anywhere!

Have any of you heard the Great Jazz Trio's Autumn Leaves, which came out last year? Hank & Elvin, along with Richard Davis! Does a lineup get any more stellar than this?

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At least according to Amazon they have copies, both used & new. I hope that that's correct--I know that items in the Verve/Gitanes series do tend to get killed off quickly if they're not moving enough product..... (The evil scum deleted piles of Helen Merrill & Rodney Kendrick discs from the 1990s, for instance...) Good luck finding it! But I take it other boardmembers have found sources for it...?

Yeah I've heard Autumn Leaves but truthfully I didn't think it all that great--it's OK. It's an incredibly boring setlist, even if they do well by the tunes, & Elvin really unbalances some of the tracks. There's a review I did here:


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Great choice Nate! Elvin's brushwork is masterful on the whole cd of Upon Reflection. One of my favorite Hank trio recordings. Those tempos are very difficult to play also; in between slow & medium, etc. And those ARE great liner notes by Kenny Washington.

I would highly recommend the Tommy Flanagan "Let's........" cd. Lewis Nash is at the top of his game on that one!

I also picked up the Great Jazz Trio "Autumn Leaves" cd. I like it though! It's definitely a spontaneous blowing session; no rehearsals or anything I'm sure. It was very much a producer's concept; in fact Hank was apparently somewhat reluctant to participate according to the liner notes. But when you have three great musicians like that, even familiar tunes are nice to hear. It's great to hear Hank sounding so good at 80+! And the fact that Elvin takes a solo on practically every tune doesn't bother me! Recommended to fans of Hank & Elvin; anytime they play together I want to hear it!

For more great trio Elvin I STRONGLY urge everyone to check out:

Tommy Flanagan: Overseas

Barry Harris: Preminado

Phineas Newborn: Harlem Blues

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Well, this is easily my favourite of the Universal Anniversary series. I bought a whole bunch of these (plus a bunch from the Heritage series), but this one has been pretty much in constant rotation.

I'm at this very moment scanning and preparing the liner notes for this CD ... wait a few minutes. ;)


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01 THAD'S PAD 7:25

02 AH, HENRY 8:10




06 LADY LUCK 8:04



09 RAY-EL 7:22


Music by Thad Jones

1, 2, 5 published by Thank Music Corp. ASCAP

3, 4, 610 10 published by D'Accord Music, Inc. ASCAP

Liner Notes by Kenny Washington: (Note: There are probably smaller errors ... it was a drag to scan this one.]

A few days after the jazz world was saddened by the news of Thad Jones' death, I was contacted by the great saxophonist Frank Wess for an engagement. The first person I ran into at that engagement was Hank Jones. I had no idea he was going to be on the gig. After exchanging pleasantries, I gave him my condolences. At that point Hank said " There will never be another Thad ". No truer words have ever been spoken : Thad's genius was tri-fold, he was a composer, arranger and trumpeter.

In my opinion, Thad ranks high in the beyond-category status, with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. I don't mean to take anything away from these two geniuses, because Thad would be the first one to tell you how much he was influenced by them. He grew up at the right time and was able to absorb not only the big band sounds but the music of the Bebop era. Speaking of Ellington, few people know that Thad spent a few months in the Ellington band. In 1961, a recording session for Columbia records took place involving the Count Basie Orchestra (which Thad was a part of) as well as Ellington's, playing together. Thad wrote a beautiful composition and arrangement for that date, titled To You. Duke heard it and was knocked out by the chord voicings and overall depth of the piece. He could hear his influence on Thad, but Duke knew he had his own thing. It was after this date that Duke hired him away from Basie for a short time (too bad nothing was recorded). To be sure, in that short time Thad was checking out Duke and Duke was checking out Thad. Jazz is very much like a relay race. He or she runs a few laps before passing the baton on to the next runner. Thad in turn has been a major influence on tons of young writers.

For those of you who are not hip to the arrangements Thad wrote for Basie or Roulette, or those gems that he wrote for his co-led band with Mel Lewis, make a bee line to your local record shop and cop!!! It should also be noted that while a lot of Thad's contemporaries were writing new melodies an standard popular song changes, Thad was writing compositions with his own harmonic progressions. Even when Thad chose to write a tune one, for example, I Got Rhythm, the chord changes, melodies and rhythms were so interesting it would almost make you forget it was actually I Got Rhythm.

As a trumpeter Thad defies gravity. He definitely had the history of the Instrument under his belt. Too many people sleep on Thad as a trumpeter He was an unselfish man. While leading the big band he wanted to give other players a chance to play. More often than not he didn't leave any space for himself to stretch out and play. Because of this, I think he is taken for granted. Thad had his own hip harmonic and rhythmic formulas from the start. He was simply a natural.

Of course, Hank needs no introduction to jazz fans. He has recorded with everyone from Hot Lips Page to Anthony Braxton. Trust me when I say that I've listened to hundreds of records with Hank on them, and he never played a bad note in his life. Hank possesses what I call the 3Ts: touch, tone and time. Hank recognized Thad's genius early on, and often recorded his compositions. On this CD we hear pure Thad throughout, in a loving tribute from Hank to his younger brother.

The other two thirds of this trio likewise need no introduction. Elvin Jones, Hank's younger brother, has been a dynamic force in the percussion world for over 35 years. Although he's one of the biggest influences on younger drummers today, I feel he's misunderstood. Few drummers of today know how much music this man knows, how musically sensitive he can be; he's a brush master and what a great ensemble player he is! I hope this CD will finally hip drummers and fans to the fact that there's more than one side to this master percussionist. Elvin has also recorded dates as a leader.

George Mraz was a member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra in the first half of the seventies. He recorded three records with the orchestra, and has a thorough knowledge of Thad's music. This guy is the only bass player I know who can play any of Thad's tricky melodies. Whether it's in thumb position or with the bow it doesn't matter, plus he plays them in tune. I've witnessed this on many nights playing on the bandstand with him, both with Hank and another great Detroit pianist, Tommy Flanagan. This is a great trio with no weak links. As you can, hear these giants came to play and to take care of business, playing Thad's music the way it should be played.

Thad's Pad was originally recorded by Hank back in 1953 for Verve with just piano, bass and guitar. This 1993 version is slower and much more relaxed. Hank uses a new, typically hip intro which gives Elvin a couple of two bar breaks before the melody. Hank comes on strong playing two choruses of pure class piano, showing us that there are still a few pianists around that have left hands. Mraz takes two choruses for himself. This solo is a good example of what I mentioned earlier about how well he plays in tune. Dig how he has complete command of the tune playing upward, downward and all around the changes. Both Hank and George exchange fours with Elvin. You can hear that he has studied the brushmasters like Denzil Best, Jo Jones (no relation), and Charlie Smith to get to his own unique brush sound. Incidentally, dig Elvin's ensemble playing on the melody.

Ah, Henry is one of two pieces that Thad had written that never got recorded or played in public. Hank was looking through his stockpile of music and discovered these compositions. This piece has the simple standard AABA song form; but that's where the simplicity ends. In the 9th bar of the A section the time signature changes to 3/4 time for four bars. That same A section is repeated: this time, there's five bars of 3/4 time before going to the bridge in 4/4 time which is 16 bars. The fast A section is repeated before going to the solos (try dancing to this one). That form continues through the solos. I was talking with Hank's lovely wife Teddy, and she remembers Thad bringing this piece around to their home. As they rehearsed the tune and Hank played a solo she could hear Thad repeatedly exclaim "Ah, Henry" in admiration of his brother. When you listen to Hank's solo on this track you will want to exclaim "Ah, Henry !"

Hank's introduction on The Summary is worth the price of the whole CD alone. This beautiful piece is the second movement of Thad's Suite for Pops, written in dedication to Louis Armstrong after his death in 1971. Thad and Mel recorded the entire suite with the big band for A&M Horizon in 1972. Mraz was on the original recording, but here gets a chance to play a melodic bass solo. Hank shows us he is still the master of ballad piano playing, and also displays that full piano sound that only he can get.

Little Rascal On A Rock goes back to 1976. Thad was inspired to write this after getting a kick out of watching the son of pianist Jaki Byard playing on a big rock. This piece has that dual personality, like a little boy innocent one minute and mischievous the next. Hank plays the melody with the same feeling and voicings as the big band version by Thad and Mel. This is a hard tune to play on, with all kinds of harmonic pitfalls. Hank and George handle the changes like the pros they are. Incidentally, this was George's feature number when he played with the big band. Elvin has his say before the melody returns.

Upon Reflection is the other newly discovered (never recorded) gem from the pen of Thad. He sure could write pretty tunes with challenging chord changes to play on. George and Elvin shift into a nice two-feeling for Hank's lyrical statement. The same feeling is maintained for George's solo. Dig how he quotes Dizzy Gillespie's Woody'n You at the end of his solo. After the bass solo there's an interesting interplay between the three where they switch roles. Hank is the foundation keeping the basic time. George is playing rhythmic punctuations and utilizing double stops. Elvin is on the top with his arsenal of polyrhythms. Check out how he brings the dynamics and tempo back to the original ballad feel for the melody.

Lady Luck was originally written for Elvin's date on Riverside in 1962. Thad chose to write this tune on the changes of Taking A Chance On Love. This tune is a good example of how Thad could take an old standard, and do a complete facelift so you don't ever recognize it. Dig how he puts a two-bar break at the 7th bar of the A sections of the melody to further throw you for a loop. George leads off playing a great two-chorus bass solo. After you listen to this solo a few times and check out the notes he plays under Hank, you will see why he is one of the busiest bassists in New York. Hank's solo on this track is my favorite on the date. This is one of those "in the crack" tempos that's below medium, and just above a walking ballad. Hank sounds so relaxed and carefree, but at the same time has that rock steady left hand. Throughout all this he's swinging his tail off. Elvin plays a fantastic drum chorus before Hank comes in with the bridge and they take it out.

Mean What You Say was originally recorded on the first Thad and Mel Big band album for Solid State. Hank was the pianist on that date. This is one of my favorite Thad compositions. It's a pleasure to hear a trio version of this tune. Hank carefully shapes and builds his solo. At the beginning of the second chorus he gets into a double time feel, and George and Elvin follow right behind him. Check how they shift gears back to the original tempo before George's solo. These gentlemen were in tune with each other. Elvin plays a two chorus drum solo before the theme is restated.

There's a big band version of Kids Are Pretty People, but Hank recorded this for Galaxy back in 1977 with guitar and bass. This version is done at a slower, funkier tempo. Both Hank and George have soulful statements on this one. Even though Elvin's solo might sound abstract to some of you, he knows exactly what he's doing. If you sing the melody during his solo you'll see that Elvin plays two perfect A sections before the trio comes in with the bridge.

Ray-El was originally from the same date as Lady Luck. It's a play on Elvin's name using his middle name, Ray, and the first two letters of his first name. It has an interesting song form of AAB. The A section is in C minor. The bridge moves to an E flat major blues. It doesn't go back to the A section until after the solos. To put it in simpler terms, these sections are basically minor and major 12 bar blues. Mraz starts his solo out cleverly quoting another Thad tune titled Elusive, and goes on to make a reference to Thad's Three and One. Hank plays another gem of a solo with a mixture of grease and superhip blues substitution chords. Elvin takes us on a two chorus trip before the A sections are repeated, then they vamp till fade.

A Child is Born is Thad's most popular composition. Singers of every persuasion have done it. I even heard it not long ago as Muzak while going up an elevator in an office building. This version is different from all the rest. It starts out very dreamy and impressionistic: dig Hank's chords. The big surprise is that it becomes a feature for Elvin playing the mallets. His solo comes from out of nowhere and is pure genius. Check out the tone he gets out of the instrument. It almost sounds as if he's using four timpani. Elvin sets up the original mood for the ensemble. Hank plays the last eight bars of the tune to conclude the performance. I predict this version will become a classic.

It is unfortunate that the three brothers only recorded twice together: The first time was for the MGM subsidiary Metrojazz in 1958 and the aforementioned Elvin date for Riverside. Two more recordings were scheduled but they never panned out. It would be hard to get the three most in-demand musicians in the world together. Thank goodness somebody finally got a chance to document Hank and Elvin together after all these years. I feel the performances here speak for themselves on how these master musicians felt about Thad. If Thad could hear these performances he would smile and again say " Ah, Henry! Ah, George, Ah, Elvin!"

Kenny Washington

Producer: Jean-Philipps Allard

Digitally recorded on February 25 and 26, digitally mixed an February 27 and 28, 1993 At Van Gelder Recording Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Recording, mixing and mastering engineer: Rudy Van Gelder

Assistent engineer: Maureen Sickler

Cover photography: Mephisto

Session photography: Cheung Ching Ming

Thad Jones Photograph by Chuck Stewart

Prepared for release by Daniel Richard

Special thanks to Francois Zalacain

Remastered for reissue at Art et Son Studio, Paris by Alexis Frenkel

Prepared for reissue by Bruno Guermonprez. Francois Le Xuän and Michel Mercier

Design by Barilla Design

Original cover art by CB Graphic

Buy this one ... :tup:tup:tup:tup:tup

Edited by deus62
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Yeah I've heard Autumn Leaves but truthfully I didn't think it all that great--it's OK. It's an incredibly boring setlist, even if they do well by the tunes, & Elvin really unbalances some of the tracks. There's a review I did here:


While I respectfully disagree--I think the power that Elvin brings to the session is actually a plus--I can certainly see where you're coming from.

Man, I sure hope I can find a copy of UR. Elvin on brushes is a treat too often neglected. Anyone have a copy I can borrow for a week? :g

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Thanks for the info on the reissue. Yes those are nice liner notes!

Just listening to the disc, so some quick comments--I figured that a running commentary would be more useful than a polished "review", I write lots of those & I'd prefer to try something different.

1) "Thad's pad." This tune got me hooked on the album. The tempo, yes--I hadn't really known about the particular challenge of this kind of tempo (you're talking to someone whose worst failing as a player was unsteady time). It's got a special feel to it. The way the drum breaks are built into the tune is nice--this was recorded back in 1953, before Herbie Nichols recorded! & I'd like to hear that 1953 version cause I find it hard to believe the changes could be that hip--were people really using augmented major 7ths this way back then? I love the way the turnarounds are deceptive--there's always a sense of suspension, rather than resolution. This is so relaxed in feel--Hank's solo is so matter-of-fact in delivery, yet it has a kind of fascinating long-distance logic (you feel that each chorus is almost a single unbroken gesture). Some great Elvin--I like the interplay between the three players on the bass solo in particular, & his drum solos on the trading fours are a surprise, they're so devious, quiet & full of space. & then he finally lets go at the end!

2) "Ah Henry". More drum breaks & pauses worked into the tune, this time with a little kick: 4/4 & 3/4 dovetailed together in a very individual way. I'm listening to this now & though I've listening to the album for ages I can't even follow the tune's structure! Oh, hang on, it IS an AABA tune....god help us, it's not obvious! It's got a very unusual slowly rising chord progression for the A section then a falling sequence for the B. I'm again reminded of Herbie Nichols, especially the nonchalant turnarounds that lead you back to the start before you know it.... More of that long-distance improv from Hank--he's like a chessplayer who can see 7 moves in advance..... There's just no break between his ideas here. -- There's a kind of graceful ambiguous side-step motion to this tune, like the last. Dancing in slow motion. This tune was previously unrecorded, & ought to be picked up on by other players who are looking for a challenge.

3) "The Summary", originally an elegy for Louis Armstrong according to KW's liner notes. The sprightly ambiguity & deviousness of the last tunes is gone: this is quite simply a fullhearted ballad, & a really pretty one. Bass solo leads off--I love the final bars of this with that wistful three-note figure traded quietly between bass & piano. Hank introducing all sorts of doubletime & other times of rhythmic wrinkles into his solo at the start, then it gets darker, fragile & more tender as he gets back to the theme. "Fragile": this is one word I'd like to hang onto--Hank's fabled touch on this album is more than just "pretty" (he's always pretty): it's got a vulnerability which I don't think I'm merely imagining because of the album's memorial occasion.

4) "Little Rascal on a Rock"--more mischief! & more dancing....! As with the best tunesmiths of this generation (Golson, Monk, Shorter, Nichols...) this isn't "abstract": the tune paints a specific picture, the title "makes sense". This is a little louder than the previous tracks for the theme statement, then it quietens & smoothes out for Hank's solo.... This one has a wonderful Elvin solo, sounding almost ametrical to my non-drummer's ear--somehow he sounds even "freer" in this format than on many of his more "modern" sounding albums.

5) "Upon Reflection". Deep, deep blue, though it's not a blues--it's another labyrinth, in fact. An unexpected coda to the main theme rounds it off--you could almost stop right there! The trio does virtually that: they move into doubletime & it almost feels like a different tune, the mood subtly changing to something very restless & mysterious, with those unpredictable vacillations between hope & melancholy.... (Thad wrote a tune called "Elusive" & this seems to be the keynote of so many of these tunes.) Silvery Jones piano, which gets deeply in to the tune. Mraz's solo--I expect him to wind things up circa 7:30--his sharply-etched figures suggest someone ending his solo--& then he sneaks in another chorus, which is rhythmically totally unpredictable: a great instance of someone taking two completely different approaches to soloing. It's really a dialogue with the others, & indeed towards the end of the solo it shades into a drum solo....but Elvin doesn't get a separate solo.

6) "Lady Luck". By this point the album's mood & tempo have become very special--strangely addictive, I find. I can't think of any other albums with quite this groove....perhaps someone can name others. What's Mraz quoting at 2:46? I hate it what I can't place quotes.... It's a great bass solo--probably his best of the album (though there's still 4 tracks to go so maybe I should reserve judgment for now...). Again I find I want to use "fragile" to describe Hank's solo at the start--the slight hesitance you can hear. It's not just "relaxation" or "behind the beat"--this is very specific to the mood of the whole album. But he doesn't stay there of course--his solo gets brighter, less inward. Oops, there's his favourite quote--"Crazeology". More quotes (is that Peer Gynt?). Ah, here comes Elvin, growling away like mad.... Oh I can't be bothered to type more on this one, I want to listen....

7) "Mean What You Say": one of Thad's better known tunes. Such a simple melody! Elvin is already in pugnacious, growly form by the time the head ends, & I'm now listening closer wondering what'll he'll do....aha! it's almost as if it had to happen from the start (even though I doubt this was planned?): an extended doubletime passage, done with great taste (unlike so many doubletime passages!), a great way of ending Hank's solo with a flourish.

8) "Kids Are Pretty People". I find this minor-key tune particularly haunting & haunted--a funny mood for a tune with this title. Hank's solo has a similar ambiguity--it's got real, er, chiaroscuro to it, & there's some moments of real darkness on occasion (e.g. those two chords he interjects between bass & drum solo). I know that the Rudy Van Gelder piano sound has received a lot of debate--e.g. take a look at Pettinger's bio of Bill Evans which has some harsh things to say about it--but there seems to me little doubt that it's just right for this date--the kind of shadowy, "underwater" sound he gets out of the piano.

9) "Ray-El". The one blues on the album, with a twist--it starts out in a minor key as if it followed on from the last piece, but it turns into a blues in the relative major (two completely different themes). Nice! Hank seems to be gently smiling during his solo--that gliding "Crazeology" lick always sounds happy to me. Elvin's been gradually getting more prominent on the album, getting longer & more detailed solos, as if the whole album were moving towards his big feature on the last track.... If that's deliberate then someone really sequenced these tracks in a subtle way.

10) "A Child Is Born". Thad's "Round Midnight": the one "standard" he wrote. This is the only piece that starts with Hank solo--& it's almost unbearably tender. It's also the one piece on the album which is unmistakably an elegy. A very long intro, out of tempo, that introduces the tune quite obliquely. What happens next is a complete surprise: Elvin on mallets, giving this a kind of ritual (almost Africanized?) feel which is entirely appropriate to the memorial occasion. At last, 3:45, the tune is at last stated directly--& is broken off, a fragmentary little farewell rather than a full reading of the piece.

Well, sorry for the unedited commentary: I hope some of it's of interest anyway. This is an album which feels all-of-a-piece--for me, it's all about mood, texture, "sound". You can get lost in it, whether you're listening intently to it or just have it on as ambient music. & it catches all three players at their best. (I think this is probably my favourite Mraz performance, though I'd have to go back & listen to Sims/Rowles' If I'm Lucky first to doublecheck....)

(Just edited this to remove a few annoying typos...)

Edited by Nate Dorward
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wonderful comments on the session!

What attracted me was the "togetherness" on this recording. I'm an avid listener when it comes to piano trios, and this one jumped out at me from the get-go as something different, mostly because the structure of the songs is often a whole lot more interesting than your standard fare. It is the suspense created in many of the tunes (Thad's Pad, Ah Henry and the title track, especially) coupled with an atmosphere which puts you right next to the musicians (try listening for the groans, the counts, the humming ... very atmospheric).

I find myself returning to this recording again and again, and after listening intensively to my Teddy Wilson Complete Mosaic or my Oscar Peterson London House Sessions (or the Blue Note live recordings), this disc never fails to amaze me with its atmosphere, no matter how good the above mentioned other artists and their recordings are.

Wonderful stuff.


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