By Dee Dee McNeil

July 1, 2021


Irina Zubareva, vocals; Misha Tsiganov, piano; Itaiguara Brandao, electric bass; Portinho, drums.

Oh, my goodness! The energy and joy that radiates from Irina Zubareva’s very first track grabs my attention and won’t let me go.  Sung completely in Portuguese, it doesn’t matter that I can’t understand her lyrics.  I am captivated by her voice, her sincerity and her emotional delivery on “Samba Little Samba” (Show de Bola). 

This is followed by “Copacabana,” that Irina sings in English.  She has slowed the tempo down, with great support from Portinho on drums and the beautiful accompaniment of Misha Tsiganov on piano.  This song shows off Irina’s rich vocal range as she swoops from soprano to deep alto tones and then scat-sings.  On “Just Friends” each musician previews their expertise at a racing pace and we get to hear and appreciate the talents of Tsiganov on piano.  When Itaiguara Brandao steps forward on electric bass, his own magnificent talent is on display.  Portinho’s trades fours with his comrades and he swings hard and is very fluid on his instrument. 

Irina Zubareva comes from a very musical family.  Her father was a double bassist and worked in a Russian orchestra during the 1970’s.  He used to play at a restaurant where Irina’s mother was singing. Their talented daughter received her graduate degree in Music from the Saint Petersburg Academy of Art and Music in Russia.  She became an applauded performer in jazz clubs throughout St. Petersburg and has toured Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Malta and the Dominican Republic.  Irina Zubareva also worked with a band on cruise ships.  In 2013, she relocated to New York City where she continues to make her mark.

This album was recorded as part of a ‘live’ performance at a private residence in New York City.  Her audience and culture commanded that she include some beloved native songs since many in her audience were of Russian descent.  

Zubareva’s talented pianist is originally from St. Petersburg, but is currently a valued member of the local New York Latin and jazz community.  The group’s interpretation of “Como Se Fosse” by Hendrix Meurkens and Ana Terra is another favorite on this album.  Irina is often seen performing with Hendrik Meurkens around the New York area.  Also, their arrangement on “Triste” is quite exciting and lyrical. “I’m Beginning to See the Light” is arranged delightfully, at a quick Latin pace and opening with only Irina and her bassist.  Itaiguara Brandao sets the groove and tempo on electric bass, prompting Zubareva to enter with her sweet vocal compliment. I played this cut twice!

The vocalist includes several Russian compositions that round out this tribute to Brazil, New York City and her cultural Russian roots.  Here is representation of global music at a high quality of musicianship, that reflects the jazz ability to expand every type of music with the freedom of improvisation and creativity.  These musicians and their talented vocalist expand on the theme of many cultures and weave them together like a fisherman’s net.  We are the catch, bathing in the liquid magnificence of their music and loving every moment of it.

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Gabriel Mark Hasselbach, flugelhorn/trumpet/flute/alto flute/percussion/programming/co-producer; Daniel Sequin, alto & tenor saxophone/keyboards/bass/drum programming/co-producer; Bob Baldwin, keyboards/programming; Paul Brown, Chris Standring, Grant Geissman & Brian Hughes, guitar; Tony Moore & Kat Hendricks, drums; Miles Black, piano/organ/bass; Tony Seville, percussion; Rossi Tzonkov, bass; Jeffrey Holl, guitar/keyboards.

Based in Canada, Gabriel Mark Hasselbach opens his CD with a sweet, easy-listening tune titled, “Presence of Mind” featuring Daniel Sequin, who not only co-produced this CD but plays numerous instruments as listed above. This composition skips along at a moderate pace and I enjoy the blues-based piano solo. 

“Feels So Good” is a song I instantly recognize.  It was originally recorded by Chuck Mangione on his 1977 album.  Hasselbach features a creative, improvised guitar solo by Grant Geissman (who played and recorded with Mangione).  When Gabriel steps forward to play his horn, he creatively explores the tune, putting his own interpretation on display and playing the same model and vintage flugelhorn that Mangione played.  In the 70’s, this composition rose to #4 on the Billboard charts.  It’s a great composition to introduce to a new generation of listeners. “Chill@Will” is a smooth jazz shuffle arrangement with Bob Baldwin’s funky, programmed drums pushing the tune ahead and invites the happy addition of flute to the mix by Hasselbach.  Yes, Gabriel competently plays trumpet, flugelhorn and flutes on this project.  I enjoyed the ensemble’s instrumental take on the Sade tune, “Hang on To Your Love.”  I was interested in hearing their arrangement on the famous Clifford Brown tune, “Daahoud.”  I was hoping that Gabriel Mark Hasselbach would show some straight-ahead chops on this tune, because he can play traditional jazz in a heartbeat; but he keeps it smooth jazz all the way.  Chris Standring stepped into the spotlight to play a laid-back guitar solo and the ensemble convinced me to appreciate Clifford Brown’s music in this smooth jazz groove.  Hasselbach is a competent composer and offers nine tunes he has either written or co-written on this album.  Some of my favorites on this production are mentioned above, but I thought the title tune, “Tongue and Groove” was outstanding.  Hasselbach is a master on his horns and I enjoy his tone and the beautiful melody of this song.  If you appreciate smooth jazz and well-played music, you will find this album completely satisfying.

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Kristen Mather de Andrade, clarinet/vocals; Vitor Goncalves, accordion; Cesar Garabini, violao; Eduardo Belo, bass; Sergio Krakowski, pandeiro; SPECIAL GUESTS: Mathieu Tetu, guitar; Jenny Hill, alto saxophone; Joe Natale, tenor saxophone; Bill Owens, trumpet; Alaina Alster, trombone.

Opening with the happy tune titled, “Um Chorinho Diferente,” Kristen Mather de Andrade dances, twirls and delights us on her clarinet. Track 2 is “Coco Tara Ta Ta” and the arrangements include background voices that chant on the fade, sounding quite spontaneous.  On “Guele Guele” we hear Kristen Mather de Andrade’s silky, smooth voice.  This song is one of four original compositions penned by Brazilian singer/songwriter Roque Ferrriera, who specifically wrote compositions to showcase Mather’s voice.  Kristen sings in Portuguese.  The production is sparse and rhythmic, giving her vocals an opportunity to shine.

“What I like about the album is the uniquely New York experience.  The horns are all American, the rhythm section is all Brazilian and the arrangers are American and Brazilian.  We had a French guitarist.  The studio owner was Italian.  There were a ton of languages flying around the sessions.  It was a great combination of talents to create a sound that I have come away thinking is just as much New York as it is Brazilian,” Kristen Mather de Andrade explained her concept for this World Music album.

The arrangement on “Doce Melodia” was lovely with lots of horn harmonics and a lilting tempo that jogged along at a medium pace. “Sagrado” gave bassist Eduardo Belo an opportunity to set the mood from the very beginning along with percussionist, Sergio Krakowski who spices up the piece with the pandeiro, an instrument that looks similar to the tambourine but has many more tones and applications.  Kristen sings again on this medium tempo’d song.  Victor Goncalves is featured on accordion during the ensemble’s arrangement of “Bendito,” a very emotional ballad.

“Clarão” is a world music album with global appeal. Kristen Mather de Andrade is not Brazilian but loves the music of Brazil.  She is the principal clarinetist and soloist in the West Point Army Special Band and has been fascinated with Brazilian culture and music from a very young age.  Her tone and smoothness on the clarinet is the result of playing consistently with the West Point Band, the New York City ensemble that calls itself Vent Nouveau, as well as being an instrumentalist with the Quintette 7.   When not touring or recording, Professor Mather de Andrade teaches Master classes or hosts professional clinics at universities and music conservatories.

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Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, piano/voice/ney/composer; James Heazlewood-Dale, acoustic bass; George Lernis, drums/gong/bendir.

Mehmet brings us “An Elegant Ritual” to introduce us to jazz from a Turkish perspective.  Here is a polished pianist who has composed all the music on this CD except the familiar “Invitation” tune, and who has poured his talent, heart and soul into melding his culture with contemporary jazz language. He has incorporated prayer-like scat singing and his use of the ney instrument.  The ney is a traditional end-blown flute that is used prominently in Middle Eastern music.  It’s quite beautiful.  Also incorporated into this production is drummer, George Lernis, playing Indonesian gongs and the bendir instrument.  This album is modeled after a Sufi whirling dervish ritual and greatly influenced by John Coltrane’s epic “A Love Supreme” album.  The central composition has four movements, like Coltrane’s Love Supreme, peppered with strategic placements of gongs and ney.  There is a deep sense of spiritual awakening in Mehmet Ali Sanlikol’s music, especially when he bursts into moments of song, more like scatting, where his voice sounds very prayer-like.  This music is rich with art, history and spirit.  It stretches the boundaries of jazz, offering the listener adventurous arrangements that embrace Eastern and Western culture and take a cognitive leap towards what jazz is and what it can be.  These are fresh interpretations with beautifully written compositions that showcase this unique trio.  They, in-turn, embellish everything with their individual talents. 

“I wanted to say something new through my own distinct musical voice in the trio format,” Mehmet says in his liner notes.

“While wanting to be new and innovative, I also wanted to be loyal to the piano trio tradition in jazz, as I have always had great respect for history, craftmanship, and the lifelong study it takes to master my given tradition. … In order to be respectful of one of the essential qualities of the jazz trio tradition, I decided not to do any overdubs whatsoever.  Therefore, everything you hear on this album has been performed live. … My voice, which has always been a natural part of my musical expression, is present to some degree on most tracks.”

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol is a master pianist, who plays with power and punch. He also is very accomplished on flute. His voice is culturally rich and he places it in unexpected places during this production, sprinkling improvisation and creative expression liberally throughout.  Each song is like a present, unwrapped slowly and surprising us with what’s inside.

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Natsuki Tamura, trumpet/piano/wok/voice

Two years ago, when Natsuki Tamura recognized (on his birthday) that fifty years had passed since he became a professional musician, he decided to recap the history of his music development, recording this album as a solo act.  Natsuki has been part of the Avant-garde jazz community for many decades and it was not farfetched for him to incorporate his musical accomplishments and teachings from early music years into his present preoccupation with total freedom of expression.  He opens with a 6-minute trumpet solo.  Afterwards, Track 2, “Karugamo,” is an exploration of pots and pans, played like percussion, with a vocal chant that is both culturally Japanese and rooted by African influence.

“When I was eighteen and a senior in high school, an older member of my middle-school brass band invited me to play in the house band of a night club in Kyoto.  At the time, I was thinking about going to music school and was taking classical music lessons, including the piano.  Looking back, I recall that for a while I was practicing the piano every day in preparation for the music school’s entrance exam,” Natsuki Tamura explains in his liner notes.

Now, so many years later, locked in his small room with a grand piano, his horn and some pots and pans, Natsuki rediscovers his love of piano, his allegiance to his trumpet and his roots in playing drums.

“Another memory that stands out is when I was in a cabaret band in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo, and the drummer had to leave early to catch the last train. So, I would play drums for the last set.  I began to wonder what it would be like if, after fifty years as a musician, I started playing piano or drums now. The idea took on a life of its own,” he shared.

I prefer the composition “Kawau” to the opening number of “Sekirei.”  “Kawau” is melodic and beautiful, while the opening tune I thought should have celebrated elephants.  The trumpet sounds reminded me of a Pachyderm’s resonating voice and mating call.

On Track 4, titled “Bora,” Mr. Tamura sits before the grand piano and picks out a pensive melody with startling left-handed chords that accompany in the lower register.  When both hands chord together in rhythmic ways, he grows the piece incrementally, like a weed in the crack of concrete.  It becomes more and more lush, and green with life, as the tune progresses. 

“I don’t analyze what I do or what I think.  I just pursue my feelings.  I’m like a child,” he admits.

Indeed, there is playfulness, curiosity and inventiveness wrapped around these pieces of self-exploration.  In Japan, the 70th birthday is a milestone.  The word for it is ‘koki’ translated roughly to mean; rare in ancient times (when people didn’t even consider they would live that long).  His tone and ability on the trumpet expose Tamura’s unique musical vocabulary.  For example, on Track 5, his trumpet sounds nothing at all like Track 1 (the elephants) or Track 3, that I enjoyed so much.  It appears he often focuses on sound abstraction to create Avant-garde music that reflects his inner angels or demons, as the case may be.  Captured on disc is an artist who is technically brilliant, academically and classically trained, but as free as a sudden thunderstorm that appears out of nowhere and rains profusely onto the outdoor bandstand.  Instead of running from the storm, we sit in rapt attention, and get soaked in his jazz lyricism and daring creativity.  No one even opens an umbrella as the elephants come stampeding towards us.

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Beverley Beirne, vocals; Sam Watts, piano; Flo Moore, bass; Ben Brown, drums/percussion/conga; Rob Hughes, saxophone/flute; Duncan Lamont, tenor saxophone; Romero Lubambo guitar; Jason Miles, fender Rhodes/strings/Hammond B3 organ/producer; Cyro Baptista, percussion.

Beverley Beirne’s voice is a breath of fresh air.  Her rich alto tones lilt and dance over these well-played jazz tracks and invite the listener to join in the joy.  Beirne’s lyrics are sung with emotion and clarity.  She opens with “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” featuring an intoxicating tenor sax solo by Rob Hughes.  The ensemble swings hard and Beverly has no trouble keeping up and pushing ahead in the true tradition of a competent jazz singer.  Like Duke made clear, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.  No worries!  Ms. Beirne can swing.  At a more moderate pace, Beverley Beirne continues her swinging journey on “Weaver of Dreams” that features a stunning bass solo by Flo Moore on bass. Tenor saxophonist and composer, Duncan Lamont, has written the ballad “Now We’re Just Friends” that challenges Beirne’s range as she dips, like a swooping bird, into the very low vocal register.  David Bowie’s composition, “Let’s Dance” gets a make-over, arranged in an up-tempo Latin groove.  One of my favorite Billy Strayhorn compositions is “Daydream” and Beverley Beirne performs it as a swinging waltz; a both unusual and unique arrangement.  Clearly, Ms. Beirne likes to push the limits and step outside the box, which is the sign of a true jazz artist.  There are some traces of Ella Fitzgerald’s influence in her style, on certain licks, but her phrasing and creativity is all her own.  I enjoyed the percussion that opens “Temptation,” with Beverley’s voice floating atop the sparse production like a sweet, jasmine, summer breeze; enhanced with rich Rob Hughes flute tones.  Beverley Beirne is a renowned UK Jazz singer who has headlined many festivals throughout Europe.  This album introduces her to the United States market like a bright, shiny spotlight.

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Tim Hagans, composer/arranger/conductor/trumpet; ENSEMBLE 1: Fiete Felsch, lead alto saxophone/flute; Frank Delle, tenor saxophone/clarinet; Ingolf Burkhardt, trumpet/flugelhorn; Steve Wiseman & Claus Stotter, trumpet/flugelhorn; Klaus Heidenreich, trombone; ENSEMBLE 2: Peter Bolte, alto & soprano saxophone; Stephan Meinberg, trumpet/flugelhorn; Dan Gottshall, lead trombone; Daniel Buch, baritone saxophone/bass clarinet; ENSEMBLE III: Christof Lauer, tenor saxophone; Thorsten Benkenstein, lead trumpet/flugelhorn; Stefan Lottermann, trombone;  Ingo Lahme, bass trombone; ENSEMBLE IV: Jukkis Uotila, drums; Ed Harris, guitar; Ingmar Heller, acoustic bass; Vladyslav Sendecki, piano; Marcio Doctor, percussion.

This is an album of music composed, arranged and conducted by trumpet master, Tim Hagans.  The NDR Bigband is the Hamburg, Germany Radio jazz Orchestra.  During this unique project, the musicians are grouped, not by section, (as might normally be done) but instead by sonic and emotional divisions.  Each one is charged with different objectives. Hagans is a three-time-Grammy-nominated composer and trumpeter.  This is his fourth recorded collaboration with the fantastic NDR Bigband.  However, he has been collaborating with this tight, professional and heralded group of musicians for two decades; thriving in various rolls with the orchestra.  For a while he was guest composer, then conductor.  He played trumpet with the big band and was a soloist and offered his arrangements for the orchestra. This is a five-movement exploration with suites of music that are all over eleven minutes long and mirror “A Conversation.”   You will experience a very evocative and improvisational production, portrayed beautifully and invigorated by the amazing musicians who take part in these unique arrangements.  For example, during Movement 1, Vladyslav Sendecki is exceptionally spotlighted on piano.  Jukkis Uotila is powerful and succinct on drums and Fiete Felsch adds his flute to the mix.  I found Movement 1 to be very classically based.  Movement II is busy, with horn licks staccato and moving, descant style, against each other like an argument or healthy debate.  When the melody does enter, it settles the music down; and then there are long horn lines of one single note that ring, as if introducing the solo of Daniel Buch, fluid on bass clarinet.  He brings jazz to the piece, like an offering in the pastor’s plate.  When Ingmar Heller enters on acoustic bass, the orchestra falls away and he is magnified, on his own, playing a remarkable solo for our listening pleasure that ends that Movement quite suddenly.  Movement III is more jazz than classical at its introduction and features Tim Hagan on trumpet along with several others in the horn section. The Fourth movement dabbles in the Avant-garde and sounds very New Orleans dirge-like.  It does feature a lovely saxophone solo half way through.  The final and Fifth Movement reminds me of the Mile Davis brilliant recording titled, “Sketches in Spain.”  Not melodically, but production-wise, with the sound of the horn scooting atop the lush orchestra arrangement and brings Miles to mind.  Six minutes into the movement the tempo and arrangement change drastically, with bright percussive licks by Marcio Doctor and a jazzy trombone solo by Klaus Heidenreich.   This is orchestrated art that gives us a peek into the mind of Tim Hagans, composer, conductor and arranger.

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Ali Bello, acoustic, electric and baritone violins/composer/arranger; Gabriel Chakarji, keyboards; Gabriel Vivas, bass; Ismael Baiz, drums; Manuel Marquez, percussion; FEATURED ARTISTS: Regina Carter, violin; Jaleel Shaw, soprano & Alto Saxophones; Jeff Lederer, clarinet; Jorge Glem, Cuatro; GUEST ARTISTS: Javier Olivencia, soprano & tenor saxophones; Jeremy Smith & Manuel Ranel, maracas; Eddie Venegas, trombone; Bambam Rodriguez, bass guitar.

Ali Bello introduces me to fusion Venezuelan jazz music with his intricate compositions and the Sweet Wire Band.  I am intrigued.  He has composed every one of the nine songs on this album and he is also the arranger.  They open with a song titled, “Kaleidoscopic Sunset” richly propelled by Ismael Baiz on drums and Manuel Marquez on percussion. They draw from the Fulia musical style that is typical of the rhythmic patterns born from the Venezuelan coast.  Ali Bello’s sensuous violin is a cool breeze against the hot rhythms, spurred by the bass line of Gabriel Vivas.  Then, Chakarji beautifully constructs a soaring solo on keyboard that is bright and settles the energy down on this song, long enough for us to catch our breath and become absorbed with his inspired melodies. “Heartbeat” opens with just that!  The pulse of the song is played on electric bass until Bello’s violin saturates the production with his talent and power. Ali Bello investigates the historical climate of his cultural music and also embraces new genres that are developing like the Onda Nueva or New Wave Venezuelan style that combines bossa nova and jazz.  You hear this on Track 3, “Caracas.”  “Song to Marina” is a conversation between a son and his mother. Played as a slow bolero, it’s tender and warm.  One of his featured artists on this production is Regina Carter, an amazing jazz artist who was born and raised in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan.  She joins Ali Bello during this “Song to Marina” arrangement.  The two violins blend smoothly, like coffee and cream.  Another special guest invited to this fusion party is Jaleel Shaw.  He brings his saxophone to the “Bello’s Blues” that is like no blues I’ve ever heard.  It employs drum strokes of cumaco and clarin, in something they call the San Millan style of drumming in Venezuela.  Jaleel’s tenor saxophone colors the style with American jazz lyricism.  But Ali Bello’s violin magic solos and brings us back to his roots.  “Jojo” adopts a 5/8 rhythm, a Merengue Curaqueño, to develop this composition and features Jeff Lederer’s clarinet and Ali Bello’s violin. 

This is fresh and innovative music that combines the power of jazz transformation and freedom with the artist’s Venezuelan culture and roots.  The violin of Ali Bello and his tenacious compositions transport us to new horizons and introduce us to Venezuelan fusion music in a delightful way.                                                                       

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Dave Flippo, piano/keyboard/melodica/composer; Donn De Santo, acoustic bass/fretless bass; Heath Chappell, drums; Aras Biskis, percussion; Dan Hesler, saxophones/flute.

Dave Flippo’s ensemble opens with a unique Flippo arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s composition, “Too High.”  This is straight ahead jazz, lacing the ‘hook’ of Wonder’s tune through the song like crochet needles; creating a rich, blanket of sound. This is the sixth album release for Dave Flippo and the premise was to compose songs that celebrated each of his extended-family bandmates and to celebrate his loved ones as well. 

Dave was attracted to music and the piano early in life.  He could read music notes before he could read words. Another interesting fact was that the Pittsburgh, PA native was drawn to jazz and classical music in his young years, when all his peers were listening to Rock ‘n Roll.  It seems he knew his life path practically from birth.  Pursuing music academically, he earned a Master’s degree at the Eastman School of Music and a Doctorate in Music Composition and Piano at the University of Michigan.

“After I got my doctorate, I wanted to challenge myself.  Ann Arbor was a nice town, but it’s small, without many opportunities for me to seriously apply my education.  My choices were to go to either New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.  Coming from Pitts burgh, I was already a mid-Westerner and I thought I’d be more at home in Chicago.  It wound up working great for me and I’ve been there ever since,” Dave Flippo shared in his press package.

Track 2 is titled “Finch House and was inspired by the finch birds that issue happy, cascading notes as they assault Dave’s bird feeder. Arranged in 7/4 time, he admits that his notes are half as many as the birds actually sang in their flurries of arpeggios. Dave dedicates this piece to his daughter-in-law, Anh and Dan Hesler lays aside his saxophone and adds a flute to the arrangement. 

Before Flippo began this project, he asked his musicians what kind of topics they wanted to include on this new album.  His reedman, Dan Hesler, asked for a song about giraffes.

“After almost thirty-years of playing sax and flute with my ensemble, this man deserves an Afro-Cuban song about a giraffe loping across the Savanna,” Flippo said.

“Jazz From Planet Flippo” is comprised of top Chicago-based jazz cats, all who have been playing with Flippo for ten to fifteen years.  They are like family. You hear their comfortable union in the way they interpret this music.  Heath Chappell takes an opportunity on Track 3 (“Giraffe Trek”) to showcase his mastery of the trap drums.  He also shares the spotlight with Aras Biskis on percussion during an exciting, duo percussive solo on the exciting “Syrotic,” another original tune.  

Dave Flippo displays a wide range of styles on this “Dedications” album, both as an arranger and a composer.  Inspired by the topic requests of his band members, they enriched his own composition talents.  He has written eight of the eleven songs on this project. On Track 4 (“Third Eye Open”) you actually hear the music open as one might expect a psychic eye to open with spiritual awakening. This arrangement gives bassist, Donn De Santo a platform to show his expert beauty when playing his bass instrument.  Other than the Wonder tune, Flippo has included the hit song by Amy Winehouse, “Rehab,” giving it an up-tempo, shuffle, New Orleans groove.  It just makes you feel happy inside when they play this one!

“Jazz From Planet Flippo” also covers the Radio Head tune, “Karma Police” dedicated to his daughter Gillian.  Additionally, for his son Gabriel, Dave Flippo has composed and arranged “Freewheelin’,” an interesting tune based on a cycle of minor 7 chords, in the circle of fourths instead of the circle of fifths.

This is a musical platform for Dave Flippo to showcase inventiveness and expansive imagination, while writing, arranging and performing a list of “Dedications” to loved ones and his musical family.

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  1. REVIEWS: Alí Bello, Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol, Tim Hagans & the NDR Big Band in Musical Memoirs - LYDIALIEBMAN.COM Says:

    […] by Dee Dee McNeil, Musical Memoirs […]

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