Tag Archives: piano

Elegant and Graceful Piano Tango


Hakon Skogstad – Two Hands To Tango

Hakon Skogstad – Two Hands To Tango (Avantango Records, 2018)

Norwegian musician Hakon Skogstad delivers an exquisite interpretation of tango through the prism of the piano, combining tango, jazz and classical music elements.

Skogstad extracts the passion, romance and longing feelings of tango with ease. The material includes eight tango classics, as well as two original pieces including a tribute to Astor Piazzolla.

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Artist Profiles: Peyman Yazdanian

Peyman Yazdanian
Peyman Yazdanian is an Iranian pianist and composer who combines eastern instruments like ud, duduk, daf, dohol, tar, etc., with western and orchestral instruments.

Born in Tehran (1969), he started learning the Piano at the age of 6 and continued his advance level studies under the supervision of Farman Behbud. At the age of 12, he studied harmony and composition lessons from Plus Khofri. In 1991 he graduated from the Sharif Technical University in Industrial Engineering.

Peyman also took part in master classes held in Tehran with Austrian Masters from Vienna and Graz conservatories as well as an advanced stage course in Marseilles with professor Ginette Gaubert.

Taking part in the international piano competition, Concour Musical de France, held in 1998, he was awarded the second prize and the year after he won the first prize at the same competition.

Since 1979 he has written 37 pieces for the Piano, most of which have been performed in various concerts in Tehran and Paris.

He has also composed the score of the opening announcement of the Locarno International Film Festival in 1998 (Birth of Light directed by Abbas Kiarostami)

Discography:

Second Take (Hermes, 2005)

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Dayramir González as a Formidable Orchestrator and Bandleader

Dayramir González – The Grand Concourse (Machat Records, 2018)

In recent years there’s been a wave of highly-talented Cuban pianists. Composer, arranger, producer and keyboardist Dayramir González Vicet is part of this group of skilled artists that has burst into the international music scene.

Dayramir González’s style incorporates jazz improvisation and Cuban musical forms. His compositions are modern, sometimes venturing into cutting edge fusion, featuring electric piano and synths, along with fabulous electric bass and electric guitar.

The Grand Concourse is full of pleasant surprises. He’ll follow a forward-looking Afro Cuban electric piece with an all-acoustic retro-style exquisite danzón. He also uses vibrant Afro Cuban chants and beautiful orchestrated classical strings on some of the pieces.

The album features an impressive cast of Cuban, Latin American and American musicians. Ther lineup includes: Dayramir González on Steinway grand piano, Fender Rhodes and synthesizers; Antoine Katz on electric bass; Alberto Miranda on electric bass; Carlos Mena on acoustic bass; Zwelakhe Duma-Bell Le Pere on acoustic bass; Zack Mullings on drums; Keisel Jiménez Leyva on drums; Jay Sawyer on drums ; Willy Rodriguez on drums; Raul Pineda on drums; David Rivera on drums; Paulo Stagnaro on congas, batá drums, surdo, cajón, güiro, pandero and miscellaneous percussion; Marcos López on congas and timbal; Mauricio Herrera on congas, batá drums; Pedrito Martínez on batá drums and lead vocals; Gregorio Vento on miscellaneous percussion and lead vocals; Yosvany Terry on alto saxophone and chékere; Harvis Cuni on trumpet; Oriente López on flute; Kalani Trinidad on flute; Rio Konishi on alto saxophone; Dean Tsur on alto and tenor saxophone; Edmar Colón on tenor saxophone; Ameya Kalamdani on electric and acoustic guitars; Tatiana Ferrer on backing vocals and viola; Jaclyn Sánchez on backing vocals; Nadia Washington on lead vocals and backing vocals; Ilmar López Gavilán on violin; Audrey Defreytas Hayes on violin; Jennifer Vincent on cello; Caris Visentin Liebman on oboe; and Amparo Edo Biol on French horn.

 

 

The Grand Concourse is a masterfully-crafted piano recording where contemporary American jazz and various seductive Cuban musical forms are combined with ease.

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Artist Profiles: Chucho Valdés

Chucho Valdés

Jesús Valdés, better known as Chucho Valdés, is the leader of the internationally renowned group Irakere, is Cuba’s most-renowned jazz musician. Valdés can drive an impatient crowd of dancers into a frenzy, play the complex rhythms of Cuba’s African religious traditions, perform the classics with impeccable technique and solo in any jazz style you can name.

Chucho Valdés, born in 1941, began to play the piano at the age of three. His first teacher was his father, the well-known pianist, band leader and composer Bebo Valdés. At a tender age, he was in the midst of such distinguished company as the much-beloved singer and band leader Beny More, and internationally renowned composer/pianist Ernesto Lecuona, among others. Valdés later studied piano with Zenaida Romeu and Rosario Franco. At the age of 16, the young prodigy organized his first jazz trio and by 18 had made two 45 rpm records for RCA Victor. In 1965, he joined Elio Revé’s orchestra.

Valdés was among a group of sophisticated Havana musicians who were jazz fans, and in 1967 he co-founded the famed Orquesta de Música Moderna, for which he also composed. In 1969 he mounted his first major large-scale work, “Misa Negra,” in which his style was already evident: a piano played rhythmically, as if by a sophisticated percussionist, with complex jazz and classical harmonies.

In 1973, with other members of the Orquesta de Música Moderna (including saxophonists Paquito D’Rivera, guitarist Carlos Emilio and bassist Carlitos del Puerto), Valdés founded Irakere, the now-legendary group that transformed popular Cuban music. Their influence on Cuban music with their first hit, “Bacalao Con Pan,” was immediate and decisive. An alumnus of the orchestra, José Luis Cortés (today leader of NG La Banda) once said in an interview that if Los Van Van was Cuba’s Beatles, Irakere was its Rolling Stones.

The group maintained a dual identity from the beginning: a popular dance band and an intensely virtuosic jazz group, fusing the Afro-Cuban spirit with a broad jazz outlook. Much of the modern dance-band sound in contemporary Cuba springs from the timbre established by Irakere, and many of Cuba’s best-known instrumentalists first came to prominence playing in that orchestra.

In 1978, during a brief thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba under the Carter administration, Irakere became the first modern Cuban group signed to a U.S. label (Columbia), and their debut album won a Grammy — which was presented to them by NARAS president Michael Greene fifteen years later! That same year, Irakere also toured the U.S., opening for Stephen Stills.

Although Valdés still appears occasionally with Irakere, in recent years has been focusing his time and energies on developing his solo career. From the mid-1990s, the increasing visibility of Cuba as a world center of music, and more frequent visits to the U.S. have given fellow musicians, audiences and critics the opportunity to be exposed to the uncommonly gifted Valdés. In 1997, he was a featured artist with Roy Hargrove’s all-star Crisol project, whose recording Habana won a Grammy in 1998. He also presented enthusiastically acclaimed solo concerts at Lincoln Center and at the Smithsonian Institute.

In 2000, Chucho Valdés and his father Bebo participated in Calle 54, an acclaimed documentary film about Latin jazz musicians by Spanish director Fernando Trueba.

The 6’6″ Valdés is an imposing presence on the bandstand. His sure-handed virtuosity, his quick ear, his grasp of structure and his encyclopedic knowledge of all styles of music are put at the service of his remarkable playing.

The Latin Recording Academy awarded Chucho Valdés the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Solo discography:

Jazz nocturno (Areito, 1964)
Guapachá en La Habana (Areito, 1964)
Chucho Valdés (Areito, 1970)
Jazz batá (Areito, 1972)
Piano I (Areito, 1976)
Tema de Chaka (Areito, 1981)
Invitación (Areito, 1986)
Lucumi (Messidor, 1988)
Straight Ahead, with Arturo Sandoval (Jazz House, 1988)
Solo Piano (Blue Note, 1991)
Bele Bele en la Habana (Blue Note, 1998)
Briyumba Palo Congo (Blue Note, 1999)
Live (RMM, 1999)
Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 2000)
Live in New York (Blue Note, 2001)
Canciones inéditas (EGREM, 2002)
Fantasía Cubana, Variations on Classical Themes (Blue Note, 2002)
New Conceptions (Blue Note, 2003)
Cancionero cubano (EGREM, 2005)
Canto a Dios (Comanche, 2008)
Tumi Sessions (Tumi, 2008)
Juntos para siempre, with Bebo Valdés (Sony, 2008)
Chucho’s Steps (Four-Quarters, 2010)
Border-Free (Comanche, 2013)
Tribute to Irakere – Live in Marciac (Comanche, 2016)
Familia – Tribute To Bebo + Chico, with Arturo O’Farrill ‎(Motéma, 2017)
Jazz Bata 2 (Mack Avenue Records, 2018)

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David Virelles’ Afro-Cuban Piano explorations

David Virelles – Gnosis

David Virelles – Gnosis (ECM Records, 2017)

Gnosis is a multifaceted avant-garde album featuring a extensive series of musical illustrations by Cuban pianist David Virelles. There is unconventional piano experimentation, captivating Afro-Cuban rhythmic performances, and jazz improvisation.

The highlights on Gnosis ae the piano and percussion ensemble pieces where Virelles collaborates with percussionist Román Diaz and the Nosotros Ensemble.

Musicians featured in Gnosis include David Virelles on piano, marimbula, vocals; Román Díaz on lead vocals, percussion; Allison Loggins-Hull on flute, piccolo; Rane Moore on clarinet and bass clarinet; Adam Cruz on steel pan, claves; Alex Lipowksi on percussion; Matthew Gold on marimba, glockenspiel; Mauricio Herrera on ekón, nkonos, erikundi, claves; Thomas Morgan on bass; Yunior Lopez on viola; Christine Chen and Samuel DeCaprio on cello; Melvis Santa and Mauricio Herrera on background vocals.

 

 

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The Piano Art of the Possible

Fer Isella – The Art of the Possible

 

Fer Isella – The Art of the Possible (Limbo, 2017)

The Art of the Possible is a solo piano album by Argentine musician and composer Fer Isella.

The Art of the Possible contains masterfully-constructed introspective solo piano pieces that straddle the boundaries between classical music, contemporary acoustic and smooth jazz.

 

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Artist Profiles: Eddie Palmieri

Eddie Palmieri

Eddie Palmieri’s musical career spans several decades as a bandleader of salsa and Latin jazz orchestras. His discography includes over 30 albums and various Grammy Awards.

Born in Spanish Harlem (New York city)  in 1936, Palmieri began piano studies at an early age, as did his celebrated older brother, the late salsa legend and pianist Charlie Palmieri. For Hispanic New Yorkers of Eddie’s generation, music was a vehicle out of the barrio. At age 11, he made his classical debut at Carnegie Hall, a venue as far from the Bronx as he could imagine. Possessed by a desire to play the drums, Palmieri joined his uncle’s orchestra at age 13, where he played the timbales. Says Palmieri, “By 15, it was good-bye timbales’ and back to the piano until this day. I’m a frustrated percussionist, so I take it out on the piano.”

He began his professional career as a pianist in the early 1950s with Eddie Forrester’s Orchestra. In 1955 he joined Johnny Segui’s band. He spent a year with the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra before forming his own band, the legendary Conjunto La Perfecta in 1961. La Perfecta featured a trombone section (led by the late Barry Rogers) in place of trumpets, something that had been rarely done in Latin music, and which demonstrated the early stages of Palmieri’s unconventional means of orchestration. They were known as “the band with the crazy roaring elephants” for the configuration of two trombones, flute, percussion, bass and vocalist. With an infectious and soaring sound, Palmieri’s band soon joined the ranks of Machito, Tito Rodriguez, and the other major Latin orchestras of the day.

Palmieri’s influences include not only his older brother Charlie but Jesus Lopez, Chapotin, Lili Martinez and other Cuban players of the 1940s and jazz legends Art Tatum, Bobby Timmons, Bill Evans, Horace Silver, Bud Powell, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. Equally important were influences derived from Palmieri’s curiosity and incessant search to unearth his family’s roots and seek out the origins of the music that profoundly inspired him.

“In Cuba, there was a development and crystallization of rhythmical patterns that have excited people for years,” said Palmieri. “Cuban music provides the fundamental from which I never move. Whatever has to be built must be built from there. It’s that cross-cultural effect that makes magnificent music.” His solid interpretation of Afro-Caribbean music and its confluence with jazz is evident in Eddie Palmieri’s astute arranging skills, which assemble those components in dramatic and compelling compositions.

His accomplishments have taken him through Europe, Japan and Latin America, showcasing his assemblage of seasoned musicians and kaleidoscope of musical styles. He served as a consultant to Paul Simon on his 1990 release Rhythm of the Saints and in 1993 was appointed to the board of governors of the New York chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science. As a member of the New York chapter, Palmieri was instrumental in creating a new category for Latin Jazz in 1995.

On his first salsa album in eleven years, El Rumbero del Piano, Palmieri returned to his roots as leader of one of Latin music’s most phenomenal dance bands. Accompanied by the finest musicians of New York and Puerto Rico, Palmieri presented a sensational combination of salsa, bomba, plena, son montuno and jazz. El Rumbero del Piano is a spectrum of memorable and danceable music in nine outstanding tracks, featuring vocals by Wichy Camacho and Herman Olivera, two of Latin music’s most inspiring singers.

In his modern version of Arsenio Rodriguez’s classic “Oigan mi Guaguanco ” Palmieri pays tribute to Rodriguez, the great Cuban tres player, one of the founding fathers of today’s tropical music. Puerto Rican customs and culture are the centerpiece of the bomba tune “El Dueño Monte” in which the vocalists pay tribute to other legendary figures of Puerto Rico’s folk music, including singer Ismael Rivera and the musicians of the Cepeda family.

In “Donde Esta mi Negra” Palmieri gives new life to a genre known as “the people’s newspaper”—the plena. This is the first plena Palmieri has composed and arranged. Another treat is a salsa version of “La Malagueña Salerosa” composed by Pedro Galindo and Elpidio Ramírez. The final track, “Para que Escuchen” is pure Palmieri, urging listeners to hear the talking drum.

On his exuberant Concord Picante debut, La Perfecta II, Eddie Palmieri took a salsified, mambo-rific trip down memory lane and bought an updated twist of his famed 1960s ensemble to a whole new generation of Latin music lovers.

Now that Tito Puente is gone, Palmieri accepts the passing of the Latin music leader baton and is happy to consider himself a Latin jazz ambassador to the world.

Tito helped extend this music to all parts of the world, and as long as I am still healthy and energetic, I will continue to record and tour to keep this wonderful legacy alive,” says Palmieri. “The rhythms continue to excite because they keep evolving, just as they did when the African captives who started them were taken to the Caribbean. It’s a matter of finding new ways to utilize these complicated patterns and then create exciting new arrangements for my ensemble.”

We’ve been together for many years and work like a good baseball team,” adds Palmieri of his band. “What matters is how we take care of specific synchronizations, and a lot of that takes place first in my head. The structure is there, and I look at it sometimes as a mathematical equation. But then, it must translate to emotion, and that’s where the reaction of the audience comes in.” He jokes about choosing the title of his 2003 album, “I like the sound of Ritmo Caliente on Concord Picante. It is hot and spicy, like the music.” On the CD, Palmieri combines hard core salsa and hard Latin jazz with his classical and chamber string influences. “Concord has been wonderful in offering me this ability to keep taking musical risks,” he said.

In 2005, Palmieri received a series of prestigious awards: he received the Alice Tully African Heritage Award from City College, received the Harlem Renaissance Award and was inducted into both the Bronx Walk of Fame and the Chicago Walk of Fame. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Urban Latino Magazine. He acted as Godfather of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City and received the EL Award from El Diario Newspaper. Yet another outstanding achievement that year was the debut of “Caliente ” a radio show hosted by Mr. Palmieri on National Public Radio, making him the first Latino ever to do so. The show has been a tremendous success, being picked up by more than 16 radio stations nationwide.

In 2006, Palmieri’s Listen Here! won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. Simpático, released in 2007, a collaborative effort with trumpet master Brian Lynch, won the 2007 Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album. Simpático was also recognized by the Jazz Journalist Association as Best Latin Jazz Album that same year.

Awards and accolades

Eddie Palmieri received his first Grammy Award in 1975 for his release The Sun of Latin Music, which is often considered the most historic, as it was the first time Latin Music was recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS).

He would win again the following year for Unfinished Masterpiece, Palo Pa Rumba, Bajo Con Tumbao in 1984, Solito in 1985 and La Verdad in 1987. He received a Latin Grammy and a traditional Grammy for his 2000 release with Tito Puente entitled Obra Maestra, Listen Here! in 2006 and Simpatico in 2007, a collaborative effort with trumpet master Brian Lynch, for Best Latin Jazz Album.

Palmieri was awarded the Eubie Blake Award by Dr. Billy Taylor in 1991 and is among the few Hispanic musicians recognized by the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico and the New York State Assembly. In 1988, the Smithsonian Institution recorded two of Palmieri’s performances for their catalog of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., a rare public honor.

The 1998 Heineken Jazz Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico, paid tribute to his contributions as a bandleader, bestowing him an honorary doctorate degree from the Berklee College of Music.

Palmieri remains a powerhouse of brilliance and sound that has stirred audiences for more than 3 decades years, continually and successfully seeking to captivate and elevate the senses, and taking them down paths of intensity to a place where there are no musical boundaries.

Discography:

La Perfecta (Alegre, 1962)

El Molestoso (Alegre, 1963)

Lo Que Traigo Es Sabroso (Alegre, 1964)

Mambo Con Conga Is Mozambique (Tico, 1965)

Palmieri & Tjader: El Sonido Nuevo (Tico, 1966)

Palmieri & Tjader: Bamboleate (Tico, 1967)

Champagne (Tico, 1968)

Justicia (Tico, 1969)

Superimposition (Tico, 197)

Harlem River Drive (Roulette, 1971)

Live At Sing Sing – Vol 1 (Tico, 1972)

Live At Sing Sing – Vol 2 (Tico, 1972)

Sentido (Coco, 1973)

The Sun of Latin Music (Coco, 1974)

Unfinished Masterpiece (Coco, 1974)

Lucumi Macumba Voodoo (Epic, 1978)

Eddie Palmieri (Barbaro, 1982)

Bajo Con Tumbao (1984)

Solito (Musica Latina, 1985)

La Verdad (Sonido, 1987)

Sueño (Intuition, 1992)

Llegó La India Via Eddie Palmieri (Soho Sounds Palmas – Elektra/Nonesuch, 1992)

Arete (Tropijazz, 1995)

Vortex (Tropijazz, 1996)

El Rumbero Del Piano (Tropijazz, 1998)

Obra Maestra (2000)

La Perfecta II (Concord, 2002)

Ritmo Caliente (Concord Records CCD-218-2, 2003)

Listen Here! (Concord Records, 2005)

Simpático (The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project) (2006)

Eddie Palmieri is Doin’ it in the Park (2013)

 

 

Sabiduría (Ropeadope, 2017)

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Campaign Started to Build Pianos in Rwanda

A group of three friends has gotten together to build pianos in Rwanda. After the closure of the only piano factory in South Africa years ago, there are currently no piano makers in Africa. The Rwandan workshop intends to build upright pianos with an African twist, using local materials to make it affordable.

There is an Indiegogo campaign running until June: indiegogo.com/projects/kigali-keys-building-pianos-in-rwanda-piano-africa#/

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Eliane Elias Celebrates Her Roots

Eliane Elias – Dance of Time (Concord Jazz, 2017)

USA-based Brazilian pianist and vocalist Eliane Elias has become of the most familiar names in the world of Brazilian-rooted jazz. Her new album Dance of Time takes Eliane back to her Brazilian roots in a brilliant manner.

Dance of Time was recorded in Brazil and the result is a truly exquisite recording. There is not a weak track on this album. Eliane Elias effortlessly balances her talent as a pianist and singer-songwriter, delivering some of her finest material, injecting spirited samba.

Dance of Time features first class talent from Brazil and the United States, including pianist Amilton Godoy, singer- songwriter and guitarist João Bosco, guitarist and vocalist Toquinho, trumpeter Randy Brecker, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and the unmistakable remarkable vocals of Mark Kibble (Take 6).

The performances on Dance of Time are remarkable and the recording quality is superb.

Dance of Time is so far one of the best Brazilian-rooted albums of the year.

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Lush Observations

Tigran Hamasyan – An Ancient Observer (Nonesuch Records, 2018)

Just out of curiosity, when was the last time you heard a piano recording? Seriously, when was the last time you sat and soaked in the frolicking richness or the magically complexity of an entire piano CD? Been a while? When so much peripheral background music screeching from the corners it hardly seems like pleasurable and more like something shoved down the throat, re-exploring the unimaginable richness of the piano can seem like an indulgence.

You deserve an indulgence by way of Tigran Hamasyan’s second offering on the Nonesuch Records label entitled An Ancient Observer. Born in Armenia, Tigran Hamasyan is known for such recordings as World Passion, New Era, A Fable and his first recording with Nonesuch by way of Mockroot. He is also known for collaborations with Dhafer Youssef, Ari Hoenig, Lars Danielsson, Stephane Galland and Sefj Tankian.

Backed by a wealth of folk traditions from his Armenian roots, Mr. Hamasyan has delved into progressive rock and jazz, often pulling at those Armenian musical tradition threads to flesh out his musical compositions.

Mr. Hamasyan explains his new recording, “These songs are musical observations about the world we live in now, and the weight of history we carry with us.”

Pairing charming elegance with musical drama, An Ancient Observer is a bold, razor sharp listen that tugs at the musical tapestry of jazz, classical and his native folk music. Plying the listener with his extraordinary mastery of the piano, Mr. Hamasyan expands the depth by way of vocals, synths, Fender Rhodes and special effects. The result is at once intimate and then expansive as he takes the listener through such musical feats as “Markos and Markos,” “The Cave of Rebirth” and the elegance of “New Baroque I and II.”

 

 

Back in Armenia, where ordinary life inspires his music Mr. Hamasyan explains, “I gaze out of my window and see the biblical mountain Ararat with perpetual snow on its peak, with electrical towers with wires in the foreground cutting the picture, and satellite dishes melted onto old and modern houses—ancestral smoke coming out of their chimneys—and birds hovering above the trees along with occasional airplane trails in the vast sky. It is a dialogue, this interaction of God-given ancient nature with our modern human achievements” he says.

For me it is an awakening, and a beautiful feeling, to be able to observe the magnificence of this sleeping volcanic giant, which has existed for millions of years and was observed by the Ararat Valley Koura-Arax culture through to the present day citizens of the Armenian republic. I can see and observe the same birds, animals, rivers, and mountains that the craftsman of 4,000 years ago painted on a clay vessel. He was observing the same thing I observe now, and what remains is his or her beautiful work of art.”

Composing all the music on An Ancient Observer and basing “Nairian Odyssey” and “Etude No. 1” on Armenian folk melodies, Mr.Hamasyan enthralls and entrances listeners with “Nairian Odyssey” with its fascinating twists and turns and “Etude No. 1” with its quick and bright clever catchiness, as well as additional tracks like “Egyptian Poet,” Leninagone” and title track “Ancient Observer.” This is simply a lush recording.

Jazz and piano fans are sure to dive into the deep end of An Ancient Observer, but for those jazz novices this might be one of those recordings they might very well enjoy dipping a toe into for the sheer quiet loveliness, expressive drama and poignant expansiveness. An Ancient Observer is one of those easy indulgences begging for us to be quiet and just listen.

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