Postcards: 2000 Summer

P o s t c a r d s

The 8th Annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, by Howard Mandel

It's not often that a major free jazz celebration takes place about 100 yards from my front door -- it happens only once a year, when the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival toasts Bird's music and spirit in an afternoon event around the Immortal's birthday, at Tompkins Square Park, across the street from his final Manhattan residence. The alto saxophonist would have been 80 last August 29; on Aug. 27 the not-for-profit Charlie Parker Jazz Festival Inc. produced a glorious late-summer affair, in its eight year dedicated to Milt Jackson and Doris Parker, both of whom had participated in prior fests.

Vibist Stefon Harris's quartet, pianist Joanne Brackeen's trio with guest alto saxist Piet Noordijk, vocalist Miles Griffith's quintet, Sphere, and James Moody's quartet with guest trumpeter Jon Faddis entertained a decidedly mellow crowd (guesstimated at 6,000) gathered under the leafy shade, on folding chairs and the grassy center of the park this year (the day before, the Parker fest made its debut at Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park, in collaboration with the Mt. Morris Park Community Improvement Association). Bebop was the common reference point of all the performers, but each group had its own style.

Harris (with bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Aaron Goldberg and drummer Terreon Gulley) stirred up excitement when he let his youthful physical energy loose; Brackeen (with Ugonna Okegwa, bass, and Dion Parson, drums) built to climaxes from her rather dignified sense of swing and precisely articulated right hand runs, nicely complemented on specific Bird songs by the Dutch altoist Noordjik's sweeping, bright flights. Griffith, the male lead of Wynton Marsalis's Blood on the Fields, was the day's discovery, for those who'd not encountered him: he's a voluble stylist, as capable of ferocious and funny scat-singing (a step or two beyond Eddie Jefferson, say) as of lending his baritone to a romantic ballad (a la Johnny Hartman). Sphere, comprising pianist Kenny Barron, alto saxist Gary Bartz, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Ben Riley, might easily be considered a classical jazz quartet -- though Barron and Bartz (especially in their interplay) caught fire, the quartet as a whole has a propriety which distills Bird and bop (and Monk, too) into a surface smooth as a pond of water.

James Moody, however, came to play, hoisting his alto with a freshness blew away any hint of routine. Oh, we've heard his set before -- including his still-amusing vocal version of "Moody's Mood for Love" -- but this was a much livelier rendition of it than he presented for Jazz at Lincoln Center earlier this year. And Faddis, whose trumpet tone and deft, Dizzy-influenced lines cut through any pomposity, was also in top form. His sense of humor was perked by Moody's, as his improvisations were: he sang one long-sustained note almost as high as his horn goes, and completely tore up "Night In Tunisia" without ever seeming to overshadow Moody, succeeding at only being his mate.

Kudos to bassist Larry Ridley and JJA member Gene Santoro, who serve as artistic consultants to the festival, which has previously featured singer Etta Jones, altoist Arthur Blythe with a band of flutists conducted by Butch Morris, Steve Lacy and Danilo Perez, Roy Haynes' Quartet and the Heath Brothers among its stars. Phil Schaap, "WKCR-FM's Ornithologist-in-Residence," serves as MC, and yaks through the set-changes, obsessive about the Bird trivia in which he's steeped.

Over the course of eight years, I've never seen or heard about any bad behavior in the audience or backstage of this deep, sweet birthday party -- and much the best congratulations for that to Chairperson and CEO of the fest Sam Turvey, who's mounted it as a labor of love, as well as producer Jim Luce (a JJA member). The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival comes off so well, one wonders why every community in the nation can't pull together a few hours of free jazz once a year, as a balm and inspiration to everyone in earshot. The corporate sponsors -- this year including Bell Atlantic, Con Edison, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Philip Morris, WBGO-FM, Blue Note Records, the New York University Community Fund, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, local restaurant Two Boots, New Jersey jazz club Shanghai Jazz and the caterer The Happy Chef (besides the City of New York Parks and Recreation Department) give Bird fanciers the greatest yet most unpretentious of gifts: a day in the park.

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The 43rd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival, by Willard Jenkins

The charms of the Monterey Jazz Festival include the gorgeous geography of the Monterey Peninsula, which coupled with the rich history of the event itself makes the experience irresistible once sampled. As Ray Drummond (born & raised in Monterey) says, its "God's Country." I've never been to a jazz festival where so many prominent, non-billed jazz musicians just show up to hang out (Ray, Faddis, Gerald Wilson, etc.). I think that really says something. And Tim Jackson is simply one of the best jazz presenters.

The grounds of the Monterey Fairgrounds offer a layout that includes the forever-SRO main arena and four satellite stages, plus a space where the arena happenings are simulcast on big-screen. Add the crafts/paraphernalia and food vendors' midway, plus the most soulful U.S. jazz festival audience, and ambiance is plentiful.

We had a good JJA panel, joined by Dave Douglas and Ron Miles -- both of whom were insightful panelists -- on the Trumpet Legacy. Dan asked each of us to bring a trumpet recording to talk about. I brought Woody Shaw, Scott Yanow brought Pops, Jason Olaine (formerly of Yoshi's, now @ Verve) brought Miles, Bill Minor brought Dizzy @ Monterey, and Dave brought an ear-opening Macedonian street trumpeter whose CD is titled "Blow Basheer Blow." On Sunday we had the now-traditional journalists brunch at the Hyatt, joined by Wayne Saroyan, Herb Wong, Larry Simpson (he & his wife traveled with Suz and I) and a host of assorted others.

The music is always the message and Monterey General Manager Tim Jackson put together a synergistic lineup that crossed several stylistic boundaries. He shrewdly engaged the Roy Hargove Quintet, playing them opposite strings in the arena for a recreation of Roy's lovely current Verve release; the Quintet hit later that evening in Dizzy's Den sans strings, significantly raising the heat & humidity in that venue. Roy's alto man Sherman Irby smoked in trio with Hargrove regulars drummer Willie Jones and bassist Gerald Cannon on the garden stage, as did the band's pianist, Larry Willis, with Jones and Cannon in the Coffee House Gallery to close the fest. And Roy skillfully navigated the Monterey High School All-Star Big Band through his suite "Trilogy" on the arena stage Sunday afternoon.

Bill Frisell was employed nightly: Friday with his New Quartet, Saturday with his Seven (including trumpter Ron Miles and 'bone man Curtis Fowlkes), and Sunday in telepathic duo with Paul Motian. Crafty drummer Bill Stewart raced from a Larry Goldings Trio gig in Dizzy's Den to drive Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker and Larry Grenadier on the big stage Sunday evening. Ruben Blades delivered Panamanian sizzle on the arena stage to close Friday evening, after opening it with a conversation at the Night Club, the same venue that hosted Quincy Troupe's Miles Davis rap Sunday afternoon. Dave Douglas proved his big ears on the live Down Beat Blindfold Test with JJAer Dan Ouellette Saturday afternoon, later joining Ron Miles and a squad of JJA members in a panel discussion on the Jazz Trumpet Legacy, and capping his evening by delivering an equal-parts cerebral and humorous set with Chris Potter, Brad Jones and Ben Perowsky in Dizzy's Den. Such multiple sightings were further evidence of Tim Jackson's production skills.

Other arena highlights included Richard Bona's Jaco-esque take on world rhythms, Dianne Reeves' spiritual fire, Nicholas Payton's large ensemble take on Pops -- including funky updates on "West End Blues" and "Hello Dolly" (successfully painting the latter in hip colors), and Tom Harrell's ringer-laden big band (notably including Greg Osby and Billy Childs). Of special interest was a sparkling acoustic program delivered by Wayne Shorter, including a commissioned work with the MJF Chamber Orchestra. Shorter, alternating tenor and soprano saxes and supported by Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Brian Blade and Alex Acuna, seamlessly wove several themes, including a clever orbit around "Nefertiti," before welcoming the chamber orchestra for a piece that cries out for recording.

Also notable on the smaller stages were the knotty pianist James Hurt and promising vocalist Claudia Acuna. Like the best festivals, one needs a clone to catch everything at Monterey, so we didn't catch several reportedly successful heat-seekers. JJA photog Jimmy Katz iced the cake with his exemplary photo exhibit.

Suz and I have gotten into a regular routine of flying into San Francisco a couple of days before the fest, renting a car, spending a night with her sister, then taking the gorgeous drive down the coast highway to Monterey (90 miles). We're hooked.

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Bassano Del Grappa (Veneto), from Fred Bouchard

8 - 5 - 00

Howard & JJA Crew:

You know you're having a ball when there's not time to write a card until the band bus is cming to take you to Marco Polo.

Fine cast of characters led the kids from 6 countries her: Vic Juris & Kate Baker, Harvito Swartz, John Riley, Vivian Lord-Alge, Chas. Tolliver, Gary Dial, Dick Oatts, Enrico Granafei (trumpet's house mouth harpist and translater delegate).

Fine role calls of wines, too, from Verona's Valpolisetta to Berganze's Cabernet, to Valdobiadene's Prosecco-- and the star of the show, home-boy-made GRAPPA, oh yeah! The big names here are Nardini & Poli (Cerve and Concord) with a couple of hi-test ringers Caporilla and Torresan (B.T.L & hat Art).

New School pedagogy blended hard work theory, and a it of jamming and the student combos pretty much came through for Mike Abene, who drove them with tough charts (GRP, Fergusonh, etc.). Guys fom Canada (piano) and Austria (alto) won scholarships. Martin Mueller ran the show with calm presence of mind.

Veneto is studded with medieval castles, crenella fed brick ramparts, swell vistas over the overpopulated suburbanized plain, a subtly wealthy, easy lifestyle. Good cofee? Figurati!

Well, I gotta hopp on my borrowed 3-speed (everybody uses it but nobody *rents* them) and sip up the hill to buy some local Cabernet (soft, rich) for Dial & myself -- big saddlebags!

Ciao, bell!

Fred Bourchard

P.S. Some bands: B.B. King, Vocal Sampling, Tuck & Patti, Philip Catherine, Ernico Piermanzi, A. Volenweider, T. Gurtu.

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Guelph, by James Hale

The Guelph Jazz Festival -- held in a small, university-dominated city near Toronto -- continues to shine in relative obscurity. With exhilarating performances by the likes of Matthew Shipp, David Murray, Han Bennink, Misha Mengelberg and Joseph Jarman staged in intimate settings (churches are a favorite venue in Guelph) obscurity might not be such a bad thing. Now in its seventh year, Guelph provides a relaxed setting to listen to challenging improvised music and mix with the artists.

Highlights of this year's festival included: a rowdy, electrifying performance by Vancouver's NOW Orchestra -- playing George Lewis' music under the trombonist's direction; a rare early-morning recital by Shipp that shone as brightly as the sun streaming through the stained glass windows behind him; an open-minded and ears group improvisation session by Myra Melford, Jane Bunnett, Matt Darriau, Maggie Nichols and others; and a one-time combination of members of Chicago's AACM (including Jarman, Lewis and Leroy Jenkins) and Amsterdam's ICP (Bennink and Mengelberg).

A full report on the festival will appear in an upcoming issue of Coda.

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Jyvaskyla, Finland: Summer Jazz Conference and Festival, by Terence Ripmaster

Jyvaskyla is about four hours north of Helsinki by train. The University of Jyvaskyla sponsored the conference and festival. It's a university with 15,000 students and has a jazz studies program in the music department. I was one of 15 speakers who covered topics from Charlie Christian's charts to Nordic folk elements in jazz. I spoke about jazz in communist nations.

It takes some time getting accustomed to 24 hours of sunlight. In the afternoons and evenings at various venues in town, there was a variety of jazz. One of the most exciting events was a 24 piece local band playing excellent Latin jazz, a al Gillespie, Kenton, Tito Puente, salsa, and mumbo. A very talented Rebecca Mauleon-Santana played piano and sang -- great voice! There's a local group called Bossa Nueva With Strings with Johanna Maki on vocals and flute. Another junior big band calls itself Born In the Sauna. Two other groups featured in some of the small clubs in town were the Joona Toivanen Trio and the Nine Astrom Quartet.

Night life (with its daylight) goes on until morning. I asked locals when they slept and was informed that during the summer, they usually get three-four hours in bed. Because winter is the opposite, with 24 hours of darkness, Finns take their jazz and sun very seriously. The Finnish language is almost impossible to learn, but English is their second language and they very much identify with the United States. A week of jazz discussion and music was delightful and instructive. The Finnish Jazz Federation can be contacted at

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Sound Symposium, Newfoundland, by Howard Mandel

St. John's, Newfoundland -- the 10th bi-annual Sound Symposium wasn't a jazz fest per se, but was full of adventurous musicmaking by percussionists including South Indian mrdangam master Trichy Sankaran, the British sax-lounge-Theremin trio Remote Listeners, Canadian-based 40 Fingers Saxophone Quartet and free-improv clarinet/pianist duo Queen Mab, installation pieces by foundsound artist Ellen Band and Chicago ex-bop drummer/instrument inventor Grant Strombeck, Trimpin (creator of the "Fire Organ," which he demonstrated with freely improvised singing by Miriam Palma), and not least of all my fearless live-in composer Kitty Brazelton, leading a 16 member jam session de&reconstructing "Born to Be Wild," "Pretty Woman," "Riders On The Storm," "Don't You Want Somebody to Love," etc., as well as premiering a 20-minute piece with her "punk-digital-chamber" quartet What Is It Like To Be A Bat? (Indescribable -- but ask me!), with co-leader/vocalist/guitarist/electronic processor Dafna Naphtali, drummer Danny Tunick and sound designer Paul Geluso.

The town itself, as hearty as it is remote, is built around a beautiful natural harbor, and the weather was swell if entertainingly changeable, usually clear by noon-thirty, when half-a-dozen moored ships daily lent their horns to 15-minute-long "Harbour Symphonies" by local composers. After the nightly main-course concerts either in the pleasantly new Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) auditorium or the downtown, black-box Longshoreman's Preservation Union Hall, there were performances at the Ship, a rockin' bar, by local ensembles of traditional Newfoundlander music (sea chanties and songs of the seal hunts, mournful as the blues and country ballads pre-bluegrass), as well as "quiet concerts" in private homes. I played wood and silver flutes in one of these, and also in one of the final night's improvs with emcee/drummer/Captain Beefheart fanatic Mack Furlong and guitarist/tech coordinator Wallace Hammond, and also moderated three "writers forums" with St. John's photographer extraordinaire, Greg Locke.

On the fest's penultimate night, all the musicians and a couple of hundred listeners trouped out of town 15 miles to the eastern-most point of land in the Western Hemisphere, Cape Spear, for an extravaganza conduction by Sound Symposium organizer Don Wherry. He designed an hour-and-a-half spontaneous combustion involving all of the above-mentioned musicians, as well as Taiko drummers, bagpipers, saxists from Rome and Calgary, and a high-energy troupe of about 40 local high school kids who'd learned West African Ashanti dances and chants. This was outdoors, under a full moon. The winds picked up, whales probably gathered at the foot of the cliffs, many people snuggled in sleeping bags - yeah, it was cold. But wonderful. Not to be repeated, at least not for two years.

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Glenmorangie Glasgow Jazz Festival, Glasgow, Scotland, from Kenny Mathieson

The newly renamed Glenmorangie Glasgow Jazz Festival carried on where last year's event left off, with a successful programme, good audiences, and a couple of events which will live long in the mind. Chief among the latter category was the afternoon concert featuring solo sets of dazzlingly creative music making by cellist Ernst Reijseger, drummer Han Bennink and pianist Myra Melford. The 13-piece Brian Irvine Ensemble from Belfast also shone, with free improviser Paul Dunmall's saxophones wailing over the leader's anarchic charts to great effect.

The festival has a tradition of commissioning large new works. Tommy Smith's Sons and Daughters of Alba incorporated jazz and folk musicians as well as the poems of Edwin Morgan, and made a qualified success of the fusion. The fluid interchange of musical idioms was often impressive, notably between Smith's tenor and Michael McGoldrick's uilleann pipes, while the jazz soloists -- essentially Smith and French vibes player Jean-Baptiste Bocle -- shone throughout.

The rest of the programme threw up a diverse pleasures. The straighter jazz highlights included Terence Blanchard's fine sextet and a glorious combination of Joe Lovano's Trio Fascination with special guest alto saxist Steve Slagle, a much-underrated talent. Regina Carter and Michel Camilo were impressively virtuoso in their respective sets, but a little more light and shade would have been welcome. Nils Petter Molvaer (playing trumpet, leading his band) combined icy soundscapes with crunching beats to great effect, while Yellowjackets did their slick fusion thing in their usual funky fashion.

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Lovano Opens 20th Ottawa International Jazz Festival, by John R. Fowler

July 14, 2000

After an intense rain shower, the skies cleared and Joe Lovano and the 52nd Street Band took the stage (Ralph Lalama, tenor sax; Steve Slagle, alto sax; Tim Ries, baritone sax; Barry Ries, trumpet; Larry Farrell, trombone; Marc Copeland, piano; Dennis Irwin, bass; Otis Brown III, drums). The band was relaxed and obviously enjoying themselves playing for the large appreciative crowd, spread out in tents, on blankets and in lawn chairs across the expanses of Confederation Park.

What a joy it was to see Joe Lovano live for the first time. This is a man who loves his work. His pleasure at leading such a fine nonet was obvious. I specially liked Joe's tenor interchanges with Ralph Lalama and the trumpet soloing of Barry Ries. The band played two, glorious, one-hour sets and probably would have played longer if time was available. The concert closed magnificently with Joe Lovano playing a solo ballad for his encore. I can still see Joe's intensity and hear his rich tenor saxophone sound floating through the park.

This is my hometown festival. I have been attending and photographing the musicians since I moved to Ottawa in 1985. Jacques Emond, the longtime artistic director, always assembles an interesting mix of musicians playing many musical idioms. The festival has greatly broadened my musical tastes and experiences. Many of my musical heroes were introduced to me here at this festival.

There is plenty of great jazz entertainment to come. See Come and check out the action if you are within striking distance of Ottawa. The price is very affordable, $55 ($37 US) for the ten-day pass.

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Montreal & Burlington, by Richard Mayer

Dear JJA --

I just returned from Montreal. Four great nights of Dave Holland: 1) with Herbie Hancock and Gene Jackson, 2) a reunion of the Gateway trio with John Abercrombie and Jack DeJohnette, 3) DH's Big Band with the quintet rhythm section plus -- an incredible debut, hope to hear more from this outfit, 4) DH Quintet, superb. Chris Potter, Kevin Eubanks, Steve Nelson and Billy Kilson. I think the way they feature an artist in several different settings all week is a most respectful way to pay tribute to his or her importance. All these shows were in the Monument theatre, the size was right, the sound was perfect.

The outdoor stuff was generally disappointing. Too many trad acts, too much post Stevie Ray Vaughan caucasian rock blues, cop show funk, r&b, etc etc etc I also covered Burlington, Vt last month. Chucho Valdes, and the bands of Jeff Watts and Elvin Jones. Jeff Watts's Experience was a pleasant surprise, Elvin was probably great but the idiot at the sound board was either asleep or listening to his old Def Leppard tapes, hence he had no idea that one of the world's living legends on drums was not coming out of the mains for the entire show. Why are these sound guys always the last to know?

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du Maurier Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival - June 23 to July 2, 2000, by John R. Fowler

Recovering from their near-death experience (unable to quit their cigarette sponsorship habit) and facing cancellation - the festival took few risks and presented mostly mainstream acts.

Moving the tent to Nathan Phillips Square was a big improvement. The late night shows after the main event of the night were gone this year. The festival peters out after June 29, with the tent closing and the JVC part of the festival getting underway at Harbourfront and other outdoor venues.

Toronto's bounty of superb jazz musicians was on full display. What was lacking was the desire by some bands to take the musical risks we see in musicians from Montreal and Vancouver.

Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass (in what may be their last concert) demonstrated their drawing power by headlining and attracting a full house at $27/head. Rob brought back some former members for the occasion: Don Thompson on piano, Terry Clark on drums and Steve Wallace on base. Sadly, Ed Bickert was absent - his wife died earlier that week. After the third number, the whole band donned hats in solidarity with band member, Moe Koffman, who is successfully recovering from cancer and has lost all his hair.

Moe also lead a quintet with Doug Riley on the B3 organ. He is playing very well and has a new CD with that group, cut before his illness. One of the best acts at the TDJF was Per Texas Johansson, a group from Sweden. They are touring Canada with the Nils Landgren Funk Unit. I will see them again in Ottawa on July 4.

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Brubeck Headlines M&T Jazzfest in Syracuse, by John R. Fowler

On Thursday June 22, 2000, Dave Brubeck headlined the opening day of the 4-day M&T Jazz Festival in Syracuse, NY.

Other artists to appear included Salt City Jazz Collective, Giacomo Gates, Houston Person & Etta James, Danny D' Imperio's Big Band Bloviation, Joyce Cooling Band, Donald Harrison Quintet with Christian Scott, Pete Fountain, Tom Brigandi & The Late Night New York Band with Eric Alexander, Brasil Brazil with Anna Gazzola & Sonia Santos, Diana Krall Trio, Ray Charles & His Orchestra, Laura Dryer and Mysterious Encounter, Andy Narell, The Tony Triscinka Band and David Sanborn.

The festival is free and is held in Clinton Square in the heart of downtown Syracuse. A large central seating area is reserved for pass holders. There is plenty of room outside if you come early to set up a lawn chair and enjoy the entertainment. Three giant projection screens were used for the first time this year. They were a great addition - allowing a close-up view of the action for everyone.

How old is Dave Brubeck? The program revealed him to be 79. Many of us remember being introduced to the million-selling album Time Out in the late '50s, with his famous soloist Paul Desmond on alto saxophone.

After a brief but intense rain shower, Dave Brubeck and his quartet appeared (to great applause) and got down to work. Brubeck has assembled three outstanding musicians for his current quartet. Brubeck shows little effects of his age on the piano, his long fingers moving across the keys with ease and great dexterity - except perhaps for allowing his group long solos which they all accomplished with great style and imagination. Always one to forge ahead, Brubeck played new music throughout the concert until the end.

The familiar piano chords of "Take Five" and Paul Desmond's opening chorus sent a buzz through the crowd. From then on, Bobby Miletello (alto sax) made the piece his own with a series of burning choruses that captivated the audience. Not to be outdone, Alec Dankworth (base) and Randy Jones (drums) contributed beautiful solos of their own. The magic of this special moment brought the crowd to its feet.

Afterward, the organizers brought out a cake with candles and announced Dave Brubeck's 80th birthday. Five thousand cheering fans sang "Happy Birthday" to this grand old artist who continues to tour and create new music. (Subsequent research reveals that this was a bit of show business - Dave was born on 6 December 1920 in Concord, California.) Something special happened in Syracuse that night. Everyone there was glad to have been a part of it.

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Request for Postcards, by Howard Mandel

Dear members --

Royal Stokes in Switzerland, Phil Ehrensaft in Montreal, Leslie Gourse in Nimes, Michelle Mercer in San Sebastian, my myself in St. John's, Newfoundland -- and where will you be hearing music this summer? The Jazz Journalists Association would like to feature postcard reports from members on Send your notes (and/or jpgs) about festivals and special summer jazz pleasures to (tell the truth, now), as we begin the Louis Armstrong centennial celebration on his traditionally celebrated birthday, July 4, 2000.


p.s. -- we've instituted a new Writers Forum on the site in the BBS section -- it looks trickier to navigate than it is, and the first topic of discussion will be What Do We Get Paid (the photogs are running a parrallel forum. Now what about the broadcasters?)


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