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Waltz for Debby
Waltz for Debby
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: 3.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good music, well recorded: also available as 'Portraiture', 9 Oct 2003
This review is from: Waltz for Debby (Audio CD)
The ten titles on this CD are note-for-note the same performances that appear on the CD: 'Portraiture'. It’s by the Evans trio with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morrell and the titles are Alfie; Waltz For Debby; 34 Skidoo; Blue In Green; Detour Ahead; Emily; Nardis; Peri's Scope; Some Other Time; Who Can I Turn To?
The album has 67 minutes of good music and is well recorded: the bass is spotlighted quite closely to an extent that you might find a bit intrusive, or you might think it enhances the sense of collective interplay between Evans and Gomez; otherwise it’s a well-balanced recording with all three instruments captured in realistic sound with a particularly full-toned piano image. The trio plays with energy and good-humoured vitality on the faster numbers with the three players in lively, extrovert form, especially on an extended “Nardis”. Gomez has some brilliant solos. The ballads are given typically polished, sensitive performances. “Some Other Time” (one of Evans’s best versions of this tune) and “Detour Ahead” are poised and beautifully shaped readings. “Alfie” and “Blue in Green” are more vigorous in their re-working of the themes. It may not be one of Evans’s best albums, and much of the repertoire will be familiar to his fans; but it’s a good example of this trio’s work in live performance during this period and there's a lot to enjoy.
The origin of the material is a bit of a mystery. ‘Portraiture’ claims to be from a 1969 Paris concert; but the same music on the Giants of Jazz ‘Waltz for Debby’ is credited to a concert at the ORTF Studios, Paris, December 7 1972. However, I have a Belgian-produced CD – ‘A Jazz Hour with Bill Evans’ (JHR 73549) – which contains exactly the same performances of “Some Other Time” and “Emily” as on this ‘Waltz for Debby’ CD but dates the music as 1969, so who knows?
But the plot thickens… The Amazon UK website currently lists as unavailable a CD on the ‘Charly/Le Jazz’ label – ‘Blue in Green”’ (LEJAZZ CD42) - which contains all of the same titles, plus “Elsa”. It is said to have been recorded December 17, 1972 at ORTF Studios, Paris. Did the Evans trio record such a similar programme in 1969, then on the 7th December, 1972, then again ten days later at the same location, or are these three CDs different packagings of the same material? (By the way, this ‘Blue in Green’ CD should not be confused with a CD of the same title, but containing different material, from a Canadian concert recording, on the Milestone label).


The Paris Concert Edition One
The Paris Concert Edition One
Price: 5.10

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Trio, 9 Oct 2003
This album by “the last trio” – with Marc Johnson on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums – was recorded in 1979, the year before Evans’s death. He came to feel that this trio had some of the qualities of the great “first trio” with Scott La Faro and Paul Motian. However, one of the immediately striking differences from that first trio is Evans’s more energetic, uninhibited approach to the material. Although he had, in his own words, “always had good facility” as a pianist, it was, in his earlier work, something he often seemed to want to conceal rather than display. Perhaps this was partly a desire to place technique at the service of the music rather than to show it off for its own sake, perhaps partly a reflection of his modest, self-critical nature. But in his work with this last trio he seems to revel in his “facility” almost as much as in his musical inventiveness, and this shows itself not only in the vigorous, exuberant playing in the faster numbers but also in the more probing, exploratory, virtuosic style he employs in slower pieces such as “Quiet Now”, “I Love You Porgy” and “Minha (All Mine)” - there are moments on the latter solo piano feature when you could be forgiven for thinking you are listening to a Rachmaninov prelude.
So although there are some familiar Evans vehicles here, they show a freshness of treatment that makes them very different from earlier versions, full of new discovery and a freer, more adventurous approach to the tunes and their chord sequences. Along with this musical assertiveness there is also an element of crowd-pleasing in the performance. “My Romance” is a good example: it begins with a teasing long introduction which gives few clues as to the tune which is to follow and which builds dramatically until the tension is finally released with the theme statement, followed by a robust, searching improvisation. It then becomes a vehicle for some strong solos from bass and drums. The ‘keep them guessing’ intro is a trick which Errol Garner liked to play on his audiences and which Keith Jarrett has sometimes adopted with his “Standards” trio, but it’s interesting to hear it exploited by a pianist like Evans not previously noted for dramatic gestures or extrovert showmanship, and he does it again on “Beautiful Love”.
The more subtle, gentle sides of his musical persona, along with the familiar “singing” qualities in his playing, are still in evidence in the ballads, perhaps most notably in a beautiful reading of Paul Simon’s “I Do It For Your Love”; but the predominant feeling you get from this album is of a great musician, newly inspired, pushing himself – and being pushed by his younger accompanists – through a new phase of creative development in his music. It’s still sad to contemplate that it was to end all too soon, but some consolation that the Evans catalogue has several other recordings (including Volume 2 of this Paris concert) of the work of that final year which, like this one, captured the pianist and the trio in such inspired form.


Portraiture
Portraiture

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good music, well recorded, 9 Oct 2003
This review is from: Portraiture (Audio CD)
‘Portraiture’ has been described as “remastered”, implying that the music has appeared previously under that title. If so, I hadn’t heard of it. But nor is it a “new” Evans album. In fact, the ten titles on the CD are note-for-note the same performances that appear on ‘Waltz for Debby’ on the Italian ‘Giants of Jazz’ label in its ’Immortal Concerts’ series (CD 53371). It’s by the Evans trio with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morrell and the titles are Alfie; Waltz For Debby; 34 Skidoo; Blue In Green; Detour Ahead; Emily; Nardis; Peri's Scope; Some Other Time; Who Can I Turn To?
The album has 67 minutes of good music and is well recorded: the bass is spotlighted quite closely to an extent that you might find a bit intrusive, or you might think it enhances the sense of collective interplay between Evans and Gomez; otherwise it’s a well-balanced recording with all three instruments captured in realistic sound with a particularly full-toned piano image. The trio plays with energy and good-humoured vitality on the faster numbers with the three players in lively, extrovert form, especially on an extended “Nardis”. Gomez has some brilliant solos. The ballads are given typically polished, sensitive performances. “Some Other Time” (one of Evans’s best versions of this tune) and “Detour Ahead” are poised and beautifully shaped readings. “Alfie” and “Blue in Green” are more vigorous in their re-working of the themes. It may not be one of Evans’s best albums, and much of the repertoire will be familiar to his fans; but it’s a good example of this trio’s work in live performance during this period and there's a lot to enjoy.
The origin of the material is a bit of a mystery. ‘Portraiture’ claims to be from a 1969 Paris concert; but the same music on the Giants of Jazz ‘Waltz for Debby’ is credited to a concert at the ORTF Studios, Paris, December 7 1972. However, I have a Belgian-produced CD – ‘A Jazz Hour with Bill Evans’ (JHR 73549) – which contains exactly the same performances of “Some Other Time” and “Emily” as on this ‘Waltz for Debby’ CD but dates the music as 1969, so who knows?
But the plot thickens… The Amazon UK website currently lists as unavailable a CD on the ‘Charly/Le Jazz’ label – ‘Blue in Green”’ (LEJAZZ CD42) - which contains all of the same titles, plus “Elsa”. It is said to have been recorded December 17, 1972 at ORTF Studios, Paris. Did the Evans trio record such a similar programme in 1969, then on the 7th December, 1972, then again ten days later at the same location, or are these three CDs different packagings of the same material? (By the way,this ‘Blue in Green’ CD should not be confused with a CD of the same title, but containing different material, from a Canadian concert recording, on the Milestone label).
To summarise: ‘Portaiture’ is a re-packaging of material that has previously been released under one, possibly two, different album titles on different music labels. One of these, the Giants of Jazz ‘Waltz for Debby’, appears to be still available.
If you enjoy this CD, you should also enjoy the one mentioned above - 'A Jazz Hour With Bill Evans'(see my Amazon Review)- even though it duplicates two of the tracks.


Time Out
Time Out
Price: 4.95

45 of 72 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight, Enjoyable but Overrated, 29 July 2003
This review is from: Time Out (Audio CD)
More than 40 years after its first appearance, Time Out still retains its popularity. But along with this it has acquired a set of myths and misconceptions: for example, that it represents the Brubeck Quartet at its best; that Brubeck was a “cool” jazz musician; that his use of unusual time signatures and other time-related devices was some kind of important innovation in jazz.
In fact, in the context of Brubeck’s work as a whole and of jazz in general, the quartet’s experiments with time are less significant than is often supposed. The claim that these experiments would have an important influence on other jazz musicians has not been justified, and it’s not difficult to see why. What matters in a jazz musician’s use of time is not time signature – the number of beats in the bar – but rhythm – how phrases are placed and accents distributed in relation to the beat. In other words, what matters is how the music “swings”. All four members of the Quartet knew how to swing (saxophonist Paul Desmond more subtly and flexibly than Brubeck or drummer Joe Morello). But the jazz musician swings most effectively and employs a greater range of rhythmic and poly-rhythmic resources when playing in a conventional time signature, one which, in the development of jazz, has been internalised to the point of being its “natural” rhythmic medium. The problem for jazz musicians when they try to improvise in time signatures more complex than “common time” (4 beats to the bar) or “triple time” (3 or 6 beats to the bar) is that the need to consciously “count” the beats in the bar inhibits the usual flexibility with which they can play in, against and around the beat (as well as inhibiting their melodic and harmonic invention). You can hear the effect of this inhibition on Time Out when the playing becomes overly self-conscious and the rhythms laboured and mechanical: for example, when Brubeck, on “Kathy’s Waltz”, hammers out his repetitive 4/4 phrases against the rhythm section’s 3/4 time, or when Joe Morello, in his solo on “Take Five”, tries to find rhythmic patterns to play “against” the 5/4 measure and succeeds only in sounding as if he is cut adrift from any coherent time signature (on the other hand, his light, bouncing swing behind Desmond’s playing on this famous track is one of the best things on the album).
Once the novelty value of these experiments with time has worn off, a listener might justifiably ask the question: why? Why play 4/4 against the rhythm section’s 3/4, other than to show that it can be done? (And didn’t we already know this from centuries of folk, ethnic and European classical musics?) In a piece like “Three to Get Ready”, why bother to alternate throughout between two different time signatures if the musicians can play more freely and naturally in one? What would “Take Five” lose, apart from its novelty value, and its rhythmically inhibiting effect, if it were “Take Six”? (It would presumably not need Brubeck’s repetitious “comping” to mark the time signature so obviously.) One of the most original compositions on the album is “Blue Rondo a la Turk”. But it’s not really a jazz composition as such, and it’s significant that for its improvised solos it shifts from the “Turkish” theme in a complex 9/8 time signature into a conventional 12-bar “walking” blues in 4/4 time – which seems to concede that the unusual time signature is of limited value, and too tricky to negotiate, for an improvising jazz musician.
The other effect of this “time” material was to shift the focus of interest within the quartet’s music to the compositions themselves, and away from their function as vehicles for jazz improvisation. This would matter less if they were more interesting as compositions, if the melodic and harmonic material were less simplistic ("Strange Meadow Lark", “Three to Get Ready” and “Kathy’s Waltz” sound like themes which didn’t make it into The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins). Perhaps this simplicity is a reason for the album’s appeal to listeners from a background of pop/rock – that it makes the often-complex nature of jazz more easily assimilable. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
I’m a long-time fan of the Brubeck quartet, and still find things to enjoy on this and the other “time” albums. But the problem when part of an artist’s work is overvalued is that other works can be unfairly undervalued and the artist’s true strengths neglected or misunderstood. The Brubeck quartet’s strength was always in its spontaneous, creative improvisation – particularly in the ability of Brubeck and Desmond to improvise genuinely tuneful lines on fairly conventional standards. You can hear that gift for melodic invention on Time Out, but it is stronger on other sessions without the use of tricky time signatures to needlessly complicate the process; and both musicians were more rhythmically inventive when improvising within a conventional time signature. So I suggest that we should take with a pinch of salt some of the extravagant claims made for Time Out, see it for what it is – a lightweight, enjoyable but overrated album - and look elsewhere for the best of the quartet’s music, not least to the mid-50’s concert recordings: Jazz at Oberlin, Jazz at Pacific College and Jazz Goes to College.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 20, 2012 5:11 PM BST


Cookin'/Relaxin'
Cookin'/Relaxin'

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars B.O.G.O.F. - or two for the price of one, 20 Mar 2003
This review is from: Cookin'/Relaxin' (Audio CD)
For Miles Davis fans this is one of the best bargains around - two classic albums on one disc by one of the greatest jazz groups ever: the 1950s quintet with Coltrane, Garland, Chambers and Philly Joe. Some classic tracks too, including Miles's first and arguably best "My Funny Valentine" (just Miles and the rhythm section with a typically polished, delicately played solo from pianist Red Garland) and a similar ballad performance of "You're My Everything" with a passionate solo from Coltrane. By contrast Miles shows his bop credentials on a strongly played "Woody'n'You" and a very fast but very 'composed' version of Rollins's "Oleo". On this and several of the pieces Miles plays muted trumpet with that tight, incisive sound which became his 'trademark' sound at this time (the mid-to-late 1950s): for example he uses it also on two of the most ingratiating tracks: "I Could Write a Book" and "If I Were a Bell".
If you're not familiar with the work of this quintet, this 'double-album' issue is a good way of getting to know it.


Kind Of Blue
Kind Of Blue
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 6.00

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Jazz Album Ever?, 12 Mar 2003
This review is from: Kind Of Blue (Audio CD)
Kind of Blue is a famous album, the number 1 jazz best seller and - some would say - the best jazz album ever. This particular CD edition is the one to have because it has as a bonus an alternate take of "Flamenco Sketches" and more importantly, as the liner note points out, the 20-bit re-mastering gives the music a greater depth and richness of tone and it now plays at the correct pitch (all previous versions on LP, tape or CD have played at the wrong pitch, as musicians who tried to play along with it have discovered).
The album is famous partly for the way in which it combined modal harmonies (the use of scales rather than conventional chord sequences) with more traditional structures, giving the improvising soloist a greater range and freedom in his solos. This in itself marked a new phase in Miles's continually developing music, although the implications of the music were probably exploited most fully by John Coltrane in his subsequent work after leaving Miles's group. Well as he plays here, I've always felt that Coltrane's style and approach often fitted a bit uncomfortably within Miles's groups, especially at faster tempos. His rhythmic approach seemed never wholly compatible with that of his colleagues and I think he only really began to "swing", in the particular style he went on to develop, in his famous quartet of the early sixties. But the fairly slow pace of the pieces on this album enabled him to play with a degree more relaxation (if that's an appropriate word) than was often the case in previous recordings with Miles. He solos with typical probing intensity on the medium tempo tracks and with a kind of dignified tenderness on the slow pieces, "Flamenco Sketches" and "Blue in Green".
There's a school of thought which holds that Cannonball Adderley, even if he is a technically accomplished musician playing at his best here, is 'the weakest link' in this group, unable to make anything genuinely his own out of his glib Charlie Parker clichés. On the other hand, Miles Davis obviously thought him worth employing on what he seems to have regarded as an important project. Decide for yourself.
Miles himself sounds majestic and supremely confident throughout, subtly varying his tone and making typically creative use of space in his melodic lines. He had often been at his most inspired when playing on blues based themes at a steady walking pace which gave him the time to think ahead, to 'place' his phrases and to shape his solos, as he does here on "All Blues", "Freddie Freeloader" and (although it's not a blues) "So What". On "Flamenco Sketches" his tightly muted trumpet gives his playing a sense of controlled passion that anticipates some of his work on the Sketches of Spain album; on the lovely ballad "Blue in Green" his use of the mute conveys more of a wistful, piercing lyricism.
Of central importance to the music is pianist Bill Evans. The eight months he had previously spent with the group (Miles had invited him back for Kind of Blue) convinced Miles that he was the right man for the album he had in mind. Not only was Evans closely involved in the evolution of the music, but also his calm, poised, impressionistic playing - behind the soloists and in his own finely wrought solos - is enormously important in sustaining the mood of each piece. Listen to the cryptic way in which his simple motifs on "So What" and his shimmering trills on "All Blues" establish the mood of those pieces from their opening bars. And who else could have 'orchestrated' the haunting "Blue in Green" with such glowing lyricism? (There seems to me a perceptible slackening of tension in "Freddie Freeloader", the one piece on which Evans doesn't play.) Underneath all this interesting work by the soloists there is the calm, disciplined drumming of Jimmy Cobb and the rock steady beat of the magnificent Paul Chambers on bass.
Kind of Blue is historically important, marking a new and influential stage in the development of post-'bop' jazz; but it's also timeless. And its modal harmonies and feeling of 'stillness-under-the-surface' create for many listeners a sense that each time the music plays, time itself is suspended.


Blue in Green
Blue in Green

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For information..., 12 Mar 2003
This review is from: Blue in Green (Audio CD)
At the time of writing this CD is listed as 'currently unavailable'. However, I believe it is the same material which is alternately available on the budget price Italian 'Giants of Jazz' label under the title "Waltz for Debby": CD 53371(not to be confused with the 1961 Village Vanguard album of that title). I should add that the version of "Some Other Time" (beautifully played)is the same one as appears on the Belgian-produced CD 'Autumn Leaves/A Jazz Hour With Bill Evans'(which in my Amazon review I've given a 5-star recommendation), and I suspect that a few other tracks are also duplicated on that album.


The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album
The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album
Offered by trec002
Price: 19.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Eloquence, 12 Mar 2003
For all the 'showbiz' gestures in much of his music, Tony Bennett could sing with a subtle jazz feeling and he is one of the very finest interpreters of a ballad lyric. By 1975, the date of this session, Bill Evans had long established a very personal but influential approach to the jazz treatment of ballad material which transmuted its sentimentality into a kind of poetic lyricism, and he was revered for his ability to make the music (and the piano) "sing". So both artists had in common a deep respect for their material and the ability to express it with a rare eloquence, and those qualities make this a highly successful collaboration.
Anyone coming to the album without a familiarity with the pianist's work might be initially disconcerted by the absence of an overblown orchestral support; but what you get instead is a purity of attention to the melody and its lyric from the singer and his accompanist. Bennett inevitably takes most of the 'foreground' attention, interpreting each lyric without histrionic effect but with an intimacy and emotional sincerity rare in this type of music (there are no melodramatic, "My Way"-style 'production numbers' here). Evans accompanies with restraint and sensitivity but without submerging his distinctive musical personality. One of the pleasures of the album lies in following the way his accompaniments 'read' the moods and feelings of the lyrics from phrase to phrase, and his improvised solos develop out of, and lead back into, Bennett's choruses in a natural, integral way.
There are of course some lovely songs here, such as "But Beautiful" and "We'll be Together Again", which have, as they say, stood the test of time, and the Bennett-Evans treatment gives them a new freshness. "The Touch of Your Lips", engagingly sung, also has a piano solo that, in typical Evans fashion, sings as it swings. Evans fans will be interested to see what the duo does with those ballads particularly associated with the pianist. "Young and Foolish" (one of the memorable piano solos on Everybody Digs Bill Evans) captures the nostalgic yearning of the song to perfection. The uninspired lyric of "My Foolish Heart" doesn't add anything to the glowing lyricism of Evans's famous Village Vanguard performance but it's still one of the best tracks. So is "Some Other Time", which has the advantage of a simple but well-crafted lyric which allows the listener's imagination to read between the lines: "Where has the time all gone to?/ Haven't done half the things we want to./ Oh well, we'll catch up/some other time..." On paper it looks like nothing much; set to Leonard Bernstein's melody and sensitively performed by these artists it has something of the depth of a classic love poem (and hear what Bennett does with the sighing fall of an octave on "Oh well"). I could go on to describe the virtues of the other tracks, but part of the pleasure of the album lies in discovering your own favourites. And if you like this album you will probably want to acquire the equally recommendable sequel: 'Together Again'.


Porgy And Bess
Porgy And Bess
Offered by ALL-MY-MUSIC-GERMANY
Price: 6.40

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a Class of its Own, 4 Mar 2003
This review is from: Porgy And Bess (Audio CD)
Of the handful of albums Miles made with the composer/arranger Gil Evans, Porgy and Bess may or may not be the best, but it’s in a class of its own. The music of Gershwin’s groundbreaking folk-jazz opera inspired Evans to some of his most imaginative scoring, drawing a rich tapestry of sounds and effects from a jazz orchestra which, with the more traditional big band instrumentation, blends the additional colouring of tuba, French horns and flutes. On many of the tracks the orchestrations seem to take precedence over Miles’s solos, and some of the material (like “Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess”) lends itself more to “interpretation” than to jazz improvisation as such. So it’s an album that will appeal most to those listeners who are as interested in Evans’s work as in that of Miles the soloist.
At its best, though, the collaboration between Miles and the orchestrations produces some wonderful music. The masterpiece is “Summertime”, which reconstructs the famous operatic lullaby using a gospel-style ‘call and response’ structure. Over a perfectly judged slow walking pace set by bass and drums, the orchestra plays a repeated six-note ‘response’ phrase which Evans subtly varies with changes of voicing and instrumentation. Above this, on muted trumpet, Miles floats a series of inspired, though essentially simple, variations on the melody. The opening statement of Gershwin’s theme uses fragments of the well-known melody in a hint of a declamatory style, as if Miles is giving the ‘call’ to which the orchestra ‘responds’. If that sounds at all complicated, the effect is actually very simple, and as direct in its appeal as any piece of music can be. But for me part of that appeal lies in the emotional ambiguity of the performance – the way in which it seems to hover between plaintive lament and optimistic joy.
My other favourites are the more obviously plaintive “Gone, Gone, Gone”, the up-tempo variation on it – “Gone” – which has a superb solo from Miles accompanied only by Paul Chambers’ driving bass and Philly Jo Jones’s excitable, intense drumming, “The Buzzard Song” with Miles’s rich-toned flugelhorn floating above some equally rich brass scoring, the beautifully arranged fragment “Here Come de Honey Man”, and a joyous, spontaneous sounding “There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon for New York”.
A classic album. But is it really not possible in the 21st century for remastering technology to eliminate that ghostly pre-echo which has so far haunted every version on LP, tape and CD?


How My Heart Sings!
How My Heart Sings!

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Companion to Moonbeams, 4 Mar 2003
This review is from: How My Heart Sings! (Audio CD)
This enjoyable album is from the first recording session by Bill Evans’s “second trio” of 1962, with Chuck Israels taking over as bassist after the death of Scott La Faro. The session produced two albums, the all-ballad ‘Moonbeams’ and this one, which mainly features medium to up-tempo numbers. Nevertheless, as Evans said in his original liner notes, the trio aimed to produce a “singing” approach to all the material it played. So along with the lively, skipping rhythms on such tracks as “Summertime” and “In Your Own Sweet Way” and the more driving swing on the Evans originals, “Walking Up” and “34 Skidoo”, there’s a lot of tuneful improvising throughout. The combination of this “singing” approach with the trio’s rhythmic vitality is especially obvious on the title track, an attractively lyrical jazz waltz, on the affectionate parody, “Show Type Tune” (another Evans original), on “I Should Care” and on one of the less well known Cole Porter tunes, “Everything I Love”. The latter is one of my favourites for the way Evans in his playing of the tune manages to convey the lyrical feeling of a slow ballad at a moderately swinging tempo.
Even at this early stage in his residence with the trio, Chuck Israels was proving a highly compatible partner, creating well-constructed lines both in “duet” with the pianist and in his solos. Paul Motian’s drumming is mainly relaxed and at times almost self-effacing but always blending closely with Evans and Israels. Evans also pointed out in his liner notes how easy it would be to underrate Motian’s contribution until one tried to imagine what the music would be like without it.
Despite the obvious differences of mood and tempo between this and the companion album, ‘Moonbeams’, it has similar virtues of subtlety and thoughtful interplay within the trio.


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