Learning Gypsy Jazz: Documenting the Process Part 5

[Click here for Part 1 of this blog post]
[Click here for Part 2 of this blog post]
[Click here for Part 3 of this blog post]
[Click here for Part 4 of this blog post]

Some licks I was working on:

https://www.soundslice.com/slices/pwNcc/

Here are cool videos from Denis Chang:

A great set of extended backing tracks from Christiaan van Hemert’s YouTube channel:

Hot Club of Thailand with special guest Jason Anick!

All this study and research is all leading up to my performance at No Black Tie with the wonderful Denis Chang!

Book your tickets now here:
https://www.noblacktie.com.my/events/?tribe_paged=1&tribe_event_display=list&tribe-bar-search=gypsy+jazz

Click here for the Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1609867799080363/

Hope to see you there! 🙂

 

Learning Gypsy Jazz: Documenting The Process Part 4

[Click here for Part 1 of this blog post]
[Click here for Part 2 of this blog post]
[Click here for Part 3 of this blog post]

This whole post is pretty some of the most recent cool lessons I’ve found from Christiaan van Hemert, as much as I could locate on the van Hemert System. Great stuff and very inspiring, logical and great sounding lines. Along with Denis Chang, Yaakov Hooter and Robin Nolan’s material, I think these are some of the most practical and useful gypsy jazz guitar instructional material I’ve located online. Practice sold separately LOL.

I plan to post some of the licks and ideas I’ve practiced as part of the upcoming posts. I have to – because if not this is just all theory + resources, not documented practice!

Rhythm Workshop Preview – Django Fest North West 2017

Authentic Improvisation Workshop – Django Fest North West 2017

Check out his Patreon page here:
https://www.patreon.com/ChristiaanvanHemert

 

All this study and research is all leading up to my performance at No Black Tie with the wonderful Denis Chang!

Book your tickets now here:
https://www.noblacktie.com.my/events/?tribe_paged=1&tribe_event_display=list&tribe-bar-search=gypsy+jazz

Click here for the Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1609867799080363/

Hope to see you there! 🙂

 

Learning Gypsy Jazz: Documenting the Process Part 3

[Click here for Part 1 of this blog post]
[Click here for Part 2 of this blog post]

I realise as I worked more and more on this style, a few things seem to be a common thread – i.e most useful and effective in learning the style:
1. Learn the melodies by ear and get the nuances from a great performer’s version
2. Learn one lick at a time, understand it and make sure you know the fingering clearly. Most importantly, learn to play the lick in time
3. Practice with good backing tracks and start using the licks
4. Play confidently, it helps with the time feel and vibe
5. Memorise all these things, as much as possible

The videos and links below are the most useful ones I’ve checked out since the last post.

Minor Blues

GET READY!

Support Materials for 24 Gypsy Jazz Standards

This is all leading up to my performance at No Black Tie with the wonderful Denis Chang!

Book your tickets now here:
https://www.noblacktie.com.my/events/?tribe_paged=1&tribe_event_display=list&tribe-bar-search=gypsy+jazz

Click here for the Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1609867799080363/

Hope to see you there! 🙂

 

Learning Gypsy Jazz: Documenting the Process Part 2


[Click here for Part 1 of this blog post]

In this post, I share more cool resources I’ve found – some of these are pretty geeky but that’s exactly why they’re cool. Most of these links are from Denis Chang or his music school FB page, DC Music School.

Gypsy Jazz Guitar Technique: Wasso’s Waltz

And here are some versions of the songs that I’ve listened to in order to learn the music:

A great lesson from Stephane Wrembel about the importance of learning melodies:

And Yaakov teaches how to spice up your melody playing:

And a cool soloing lesson from Yaakov Hoter about what he learned about Django’s soloing style:

This is all leading up to my performance at No Black Tie with the wonderful Denis Chang!

Book your tickets now here:
https://www.noblacktie.com.my/events/?tribe_paged=1&tribe_event_display=list&tribe-bar-search=gypsy+jazz

Click here for the Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1609867799080363/

Hope to see you there! 🙂

 

Thailand International Jazz Camp 2018 with Will Vinson Quintet

This was the second year I attended the Thailand International Jazz Camp. It was a great experience especially with the Will Vinson Quintet sharing their experience playing cutting edge contemporary jazz. Their stories and advice left a great impact to my playing. This post is a collection of my notes from camp that I attended from Jan 22 to 24 2018 at Mahidol University in Salaya, Thailand.
Day 1 Highlights
 
[Workshop 1: Mike Moreno Jazz Guitar Workshop: Beyond Shapes and Myths]
Mike started off the session by asking about what does “Influence” mean to all of us. I started answering the questions and it basically led to Mike explaining that if you say someone is your influence, you should be able to perform at least 30 minutes to an hour of that artist’s music right there and then.
 
Developing your own musical taste is important as this will determine what music you will learn and transcribe. Mike also emphasized the importance of studying music directly from the source, from the great recordings. For him, going to the music store was like going to the library for a writer.
Also, he says you need to learn the songs from the record so that the chord voicings and rhythms you play reflect the vibe of the recording rather than generic barre chord shapes or common guitar chord shapes. He demonstrated this with a solo guitar version of Wayne Shorter’s The Big Push from the album The Soothsayer. He also played Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance as another example of how playing common drop-2 and drop-3 voicings do not do the song justice.

In terms of learning vocabulary, Mike showed how he would practice a line over a turnaround and playing it again and again until it sounded right. Then, he would create variations of it. For him, learning new lines was a daily thing and he would not come back to any previous lines he learned. Instead, learning the lines was just a way to learn how to improvise. He would not memorise any of the lines. The chord progressions that he would study would usually be fragments from songs that he was learning.

Something from the @moremike78 Mike Moreno Workshop today at TIJC 2018. #tijc2018 #mikemoreno #jazzguitar #turnaround #pickupjazz #bebop #jazzimprovisation

A post shared by azsamad (@azsamad) on  

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[Workshop 2: Will Vinson (Sax) Saxophone/Wind Workshop 1: Improvising melodically with good harmony]
 
Will said that learning Donna Lee in 12 keys would be a good thing to do. He emphasized the importance of contrast in soloing. Also, the biggest lesson for me was the idea of space allowing the soloist (and the audience) to hear what just happened. You know the melody is over when you stop.

 
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[Jam Session 1]
I played on All The Things You Are for the first song.
After that, the various bands performed:
It Could Happen To You
Bye Bye Blackbird
Autumn Leaves
The Days of Wine and Roses
(One more song – I’m not sure what it was)
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[Workshop 3: Kevin Hays Piano Workshop 1: Voice Leading]
For this workshop, the main exercise that Kevin demonstrated was to voicelead a Rhythm Changes in C via ascending and descending chromatic notes on the top voice of the chord changes. Kevin regarded the scale as the ground and the chord as a tree growing out of it. He liked using the scale as the source material as it contained all the colours.

 Using voiceleading, Kevin said this would allow your lines to go through the changes rather than over the changes. He paraphrased a quote that said, “don’t let a chord tell you what to play.” For voicings, Kevin also liked to compare it to Sudoku where you would only play one note from the scale each time in the voicing. He felt this was important since a pianist could easily play too many notes and doublings because of the nature of the instrument unlike a guitar that had limitations because of the 6 strings.
Day 2 Highlights
 
[Workshop 4: Band Workshop 1: Listening and performing standard repertoire]
Will Vinson divided standards into:
Standards: songs from the American songbook such as from Jerome Kern, George Gershwin
Jazz Standards: written by jazz musicians such as Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter as vehicles to improvise on
 
Somewhere in between were the songs from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.
 
To learn songs, they recommended finding a version by a singer such as Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra because they sing the melodies correctly. It’s important to find a recording you like and learn the song from the version that you like. Drummer Henry Cole noted that it’s important that what we play is easy for everyone – that it supports the band.
 
[Workshop 5: Kevin Hays Piano Workshop 2: Melodic and Inventive Line Playing]
 
Kevin gave a lot of useful exercises in this workshop. Some of the ones that I’m looking forward to work on:
1. Choose a scale, start high and play 8th notes going down with no passing tones (outside of the scale). Do this over a jazz standard or chord progression
2. Pick a phone number, do not repeat any notes, use this a melodic motive for improvisation or composition
3. Rewrite the melody of a song with different notes (same rhythm)
4. Transcribe a singer’s rendition of the melody to understand where to put the notes rhythmically.
 
[Jam Session 2]
 
I didn’t manage to attend this session because I took a lesson with Mike Moreno at this this time.
 
[Workshop 6: Henry Cole On Drums Drum Workshop: The most advanced concept: The Basics]

Henry demonstrated how working on the simplest elements to build your technique, musicality and practice routine will be more useful than simply copying licks and phrases off a YouTube video from your favourite artist. He wanted to show the importance of understanding the basics and using that for developing your practice routine. In the words of Henry, “When you do the homework, you sound like yourself.”
 
Day 3 Highlights
 
[Workshop 7: Rhythm Section (Bass/Drums) Workshop]

 Orlando le Fleming and Henry Cole demonstrated different examples of performing together as a tight and interactive rhythm section. They played a blues together, Thelonious Monk’s Rhythm-a-Ning and a slow seven groove.
 These were some of the main takeaways I got:
1) Create a playlist of song with different swing feels, from Count Basie (swinging 8th notes) to Paul Motion (loose time). This is what Henry Cole did to develop his swing feel.
2) To learn a new style of music, play with musicians that already play that style at a high level. This is one of the great things about being in New York City, having access to those musicians from different cultures and musical traditions. In a situation where you have to play a song in a new style quickly, get a recording of it, learn the tune inside out as best as you can leading to the gig. For Henry, he would memorise the whole tune.
3) Henry viewed music as human relations – it’s about letting go of yourself and adapting to the situation. In whatever situation, you should make the band sound good, even if they’re playing badly relative to your level.
 
[Workshop 8: Band Workshop 2: Original Material]
 
In this workshop, they performed two of Will’s compositions, Thirteen and Willoughby General. You can get a copy of his scores here: https://www.willvinson.com/scores
Main takeaways:
1) Compose for your own playing development. Will Vinson usually finds something that he’s not good at i.e. melody, chords or rhythm. Then, he writes something focusing on that element so that he gets a chance to develop that aspect of his playing.
2) Keep charts to 3 pages maximum and write the roadmap clearly. Always assume that musicians will be sight reading your music when they’re performing. Therefore, a clear chart will make it easier for everyone.
3) Keep band charts updated to the latest version. As you perform with different musicians, the songs may evolve and develop new sections, feels, interludes, hits etc – so make sure to update the chart so that new musicians to the project will be able to play it like your current version as opposed to the old recorded version (if needed).
[Workshop 9: Will Vinson (Sax) Saxophone/Wind Workshop 2: Rhythmic Independence and General Queries (Will Vinson + 1)]
 
Will demonstrated soloing with continuous 8th notes (a bebop type solo) and then showed how he could use space to “frame your ideas”. He emphasized that space allowed you to hear the ideas you just played.
 
For slow tempos, we can feel the tempo by subdividing the time. It’s important to be able to leave space and still know where you are in the form. He played an example of this on the tune “It Could Happen To You”. Another interesting example was him playing a melody and then going into the next phrase too quickly because most people are not confident to leave and respect the space in between the melody phrases.
 
As for exercises, we did variations of singing a melody and clapping on:
1) 2 & 4
2) Just on beat 4
3) Just on beat 2
 
According to Will, time is a very physical thing and therefore we need to be able to get used to clapping on different beats (and not just the standard 2 & 4). This is an example of developing good habits to help make our internal time feel stronger.
 
Here’s a cool round-up video with clips from 2018 jazz camp from the official TIJC Facebook page:

This concludes my take on my experience attending the 3-day Thailand International Jazz Camp 2018. This is my second time attending the camp after attending the conference for the past 3 years. I definitely recommend this as an essential event for jazz students and educators in the region. It’s a great atmosphere with wonderful sessions from world class jazz musicians. Huge congratulations and thanks to the Thailand International Jazz Conference (TIJC) team and to the Will Vinson Quintet for sharing with us their experience and insights. It was epic!

Special thanks to Yin for encouraging me to document this experience via these updates. This is a full version that collects my original FB posts.

Az Samad

Read about:
Thailand International Jazz Camp 2017 with Shai Maestro/Desmond White Group
10 Things I Learned From The Julian Lage TIJC 2017 Workshop
[REVIEW] Thailand International Jazz Conference 2015

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Learning Gypsy Jazz: Documenting the Process Part 1

I’ve been a fan and performer of gypsy jazz since 2007 when I got my first gypsy jazz gig with the band Jazz Mine in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although I’ve been playing the style off and on since then it is not my primary guitar style. Since this is not my area of expertise so to say, I get to experience how it feels like to explore the style like a beginner. It’s challenging and beautiful.

As part of preparing for performances with Canadian gypsy jazz guitarist Denis Chang this month, I decided to document part of my process. It’s also to benefit anyone curious about the style. If all goes well, there might be a few blog posts that I will write about the style and what I’ve discovered so far. Looking forward to get more into it when I attend the Taipei International Gypsy Jazz Festival next month. It will be the first time I’m attending a gypsy jazz camp! I’ve participated and taught at fingerstyle guitar camps and jazz camps so this is an exciting new experience for me.

This is part of my research and process to learn the song I’ll See You In My Dreams. This post contains a collection of various versions of the song, backing tracks and a transcription of the Django version. Enjoy!

Django’s Version:

Various Versions on YouTube:

Selected Versions on Spotify:

Backing Tracks

From Gonzalo Bergara:

From DC Music School:

Beginner Tempo:

Up Tempo Version:

Soundslice Transcription:
https://www.soundslice.com/scores/68433/

Discussion on Django’s Introduction Section:
https://www.djangobooks.com/forum/discussion/11567/ill-see-you-in-my-dreams-intro-analysis/p1

Cool Audio Lesson/Playalong + PDF from Frank Vignola via Truefire.com:
http://truefire.com/blog/guitar-lessons/frank-vignola-play-along-ill-dreams/

Other cool related resources:

A cool 2-hour gypsy jazz workshop by Denis Chang in Tokyo.

This is a really cool lesson on ornaments – lots of details and work. I’m trying out small parts of this.

Book Review: Principles of Music by Bryan Baker

One of the first times I saw Bryan Baker play was during a Berklee commencement concert back in 2005. It was my during very first semester in Berklee and I was blown away. Later on, I would take private lessons with him that helped my playing tremendously. His high energy and intense playing was something that I remember being extremely fascinated with. Even now, he’s still one of my favorite musicians! In this book review instalment, I share some thoughts on Bryan’s first book, Principles of Music.

The book is only 34 pages long but packs tremendous wisdom and value. It’s kind of a repeatable college level (or life level) course with homework to challenge your way of thinking. Examining one topic at a time, Bryan gets you into his world where the basics, i.e. the principles of music are what you need to master in order to find your musical voice.

The 7 principles discussed are:

  1. Sound
  2. Phrasing
  3. Melody
  4. Space
  5. Energy
  6. Unity
  7. Personal Voice

You can actually quickly read through the book but to get maximum value from it, spending at least a week to at least few months doing the exercises from each chapter can definitely help you level up.

Think in-between Mick Goodrick’s The Advancing Guitarist and Wayne Krantz’s The Improviser’s OS and you have basically where Bryan’s book is at philosophically speaking. That’s the vibe that I get from it.

Pros: Extremely good book for all levels of musicians, not just guitarists.
Cons: 
None.
TLDR: If you want to get new ideas to work on developing your own musical identity while getting your fundamentals stronger, get this book. Not for complete beginners. If you expect hand holding, this is not the book for you.

I bought this book when it was first released back as an e-book only release in 2010. Since then, I’ve gotten a physical copy (paperback) which is pretty neat.

How to Buy:
Get your copy of the book (e-book, physical and audio book versions available) here: https://www.bryanbakermusic.com/pages/principles-of-music

[Read more Book Reviews]

Book Review: The Tao of Badass Guitar by Ben Higgins

Book Review: Bach Scales by Jon De Lucia

Book Review: Extended Scale Playing for Guitar by Joe Puma

Book Review: Between the Voicings by Hristo Vitchev

Book Review: Voicing Modes – A Chord Voicing Approach to Hearing and Practicing Modes by Noel Johnston

Book Review: The Outside Sounds and Substitutions of Modern Saxophonists for Jazz Guitar by Kevin Miller

[Submissions for Review Consideration]

  • Are you an author who wrote a jazz, guitar or music book?
  • Have you created a DVD or an online video course or subscription based website?
  • Would you like me to review your book/course?

Please send me a message at azsamad2 at gmail.com with:

For courses: a link to the course/video/product + access info etc.
For books: a link to the book (Dropbox) or PDF attachment (if it’s small) for review consideration.

Depending on whether I dig the book/course, I’ll let you know if I do plan to review it!

I cannot guarantee a review for every submission & if I’m not too into it, I may opt not to review it. I mean, it’s better to get a good review that for me to write a bad review just because it’s not a match for the kind of stuff I dig right? :p

NOTE: All reviews reflect my honest personal opinion so be aware that I will point out both cool Pros and Cons that I see in the work. You dig? 🙂

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Basic Harmony & Reharmonization Lesson for Guitarists

Here’s a lesson to help you develop your understanding of harmony & reharmonization. Thanks Johary Anuar for the question that led to this video lesson!

Download your free PDF here: Harmony and Reharmonization Basics PDF Handout

If you enjoyed this lesson, do check out my lesson packs to help develop your playing:
http://www.azsamad.com/lessonpacks

You can also tip me (any amount) via my PayPal.me page so that I can continue to create lessons just like this to benefit you and other musicians from all around the world.
https://www.paypal.me/azsamadmusic

Thank you! 🙂

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Book Review: The Tao of Badass Guitar by Ben Higgins

I first found out about Ben Higgins via his articles on Guitar World Online. As I read his articles and watched his videos on YouTube, I became convinced that this guy really knew his stuff. After getting one of his Badass Guitar Courses, I was totally a fan. It would lead me to get A LOT of his videos and eventually this book.

In The Tao of Badass Guitar, you get very direct, very honest and real advice. Ben basically talks to you like how a close buddy would while hanging out. He doesn’t mince his words so there’s a lot of profanities interspersed within the advice he dispenses. If you’re uncomfortable with swearing, this book may not be a good choice for you because of the language used.

However, if the language doesn’t bother you – the pure content will fire you up! In 8 concise chapters, Ben summarises important tips that will help you develop your playing. This is not a style dependent book – all the tips address fundamental issues in terms of mindset, practice and playing approach. You could play rock, blues, jazz, fingerstyle guitar – a player from any musical background can benefit from this book.

Ben says it as it is and is a really passionate educator. If you want to learn practical concepts in a very concise and direct way, get this book. And then, get as many of his video courses. Great stuff. Strongly recommended!

Pros: Very short book with precise tips that you can apply immediately.
Cons: 
Very short book – I wish there was more but this book is pretty much in the same aesthetic as Ben’s other works – he doesn’t do long-winded content.
TLDR: If you liked Zen Guitar but want something a bit more edgy, get this book, read it in one sitting and revisit it every few weeks or months.

I bought this copy from Amazon. Love Ben’s work, you should too.

How to Buy:
Please buy this book from Amazon here. It’s only USD$2.99!

[Read more Book Reviews]

Book Review: Bach Scales by Jon De Lucia

Book Review: Extended Scale Playing for Guitar by Joe Puma

Book Review: Between the Voicings by Hristo Vitchev

Book Review: Voicing Modes – A Chord Voicing Approach to Hearing and Practicing Modes by Noel Johnston

Book Review: The Outside Sounds and Substitutions of Modern Saxophonists for Jazz Guitar by Kevin Miller

[Submissions for Review Consideration]

  • Are you an author who wrote a jazz, guitar or music book?
  • Have you created a DVD or an online video course or subscription based website?
  • Would you like me to review your book/course?

Please send me a message at azsamad2 at gmail.com with:

For courses: a link to the course/video/product + access info etc.
For books: a link to the book (Dropbox) or PDF attachment (if it’s small) for review consideration.

Depending on whether I dig the book/course, I’ll let you know if I do plan to review it!

I cannot guarantee a review for every submission & if I’m not too into it, I may opt not to review it. I mean, it’s better to get a good review that for me to write a bad review just because it’s not a match for the kind of stuff I dig right? :p

NOTE: All reviews reflect my honest personal opinion so be aware that I will point out both cool Pros and Cons that I see in the work. You dig? 🙂

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Book Review: Bach Scales by Jon De Lucia

I recently discovered this extremely cool book from New York City-based saxophonist and composer Jon De Lucia. Bach Shapes is written in the tradition of jazz saxophones books with motives moved to different keys, written down, followed by etudes. Like the Technique of the Saxophone series by Berklee College of Music’s Joseph Viola, Bach Shapes has a similar vibe but with a modern twist.

Interestingly, to me – the modern twist involves going back to the music of J.S. Bach and deriving beautiful melodic shapes for the modern musician to use. Although written for saxophonists specifically, I found this book to be immensely useful for myself as a guitarist.

This book reminds me of Steve Rochinski’s The Motivic Basis for Jazz Guitar book and Steve Neff’s Approach Note Velocity series books as well. They are guiding us through the material – in rough terrain so we can reach the beautiful oasis of melodic expression sooner than we would alone. Another book that comes to mine is Mark McKnight’s The Creative Method – though Mark’s book is more about having a specific approach to practicing any material. Definitely all these books I’ve mentioned are compatible as I can see them sharing similar aesthetics.

[My Experience Working With The Book]
I worked through the first few shapes & it was inspiring to see how it made me pay attention to the details in the line, the fingering and my tone. Jon goes into some practice suggestions to maximise the benefits of the Bach Shapes. There are definite parallels to guitar playing worth deriving from Jon’s saxophone approach tips. What I would definitely recommend is for guitar players to notate various fingering options for each shape. I already found some new fingering options that work better for some shapes. Attempting them both pickstyle and fingerstyle, it was fascinating to see how it felt to experience these melodies with different right hand techniques. It would be interesting to see a version of this book with guitar fingerings notated or tabbed. However, I do feel that it would be great for the experienced guitarist to explore this aspect on their own as part of the process.

There are some cool blog posts from Jon on the influence of Bach in Paul Desmond’s playing:
Bach and the Intervallic Sequences of Paul Desmond Part 1
Bach and the Intervallic Sequences of Paul Desmond Part 2
Bach and the Intervallic Sequences of Paul Desmond Part 3

Here are some videos with Jon performing the etudes from the book:

Pros: A very well organised resource for musicians of any instrument to explore Bach’s melodic shapes for technique, tone, compositional and improvisational development. 
Cons:
Since the book is written for saxophonists, guitarists will need to decide on suitable fingerings. Therefore, if you’re not very familiar with the fretboard, this may require additional study before or alongside this material.
TLDR: If you’re looking to develop your melodic language and want to look for strong melodic material to work on, this is a great book to get!

I received a review copy of this book from author Jon De Lucia. Thank you Jon!

How to Buy:
Please buy this book directly from the author here. Please do say hi to Jon & let him know if you found out of the book from this post. 🙂
http://bachshapes.com/

 

[Read more Book Reviews]

Book Review: Extended Scale Playing for Guitar by Joe Puma

Book Review: Between the Voicings by Hristo Vitchev

Book Review: Voicing Modes – A Chord Voicing Approach to Hearing and Practicing Modes by Noel Johnston

Book Review: The Outside Sounds and Substitutions of Modern Saxophonists for Jazz Guitar by Kevin Miller

[Submissions for Review Consideration]

  • Are you an author who wrote a jazz or music book?
  • Have you created a DVD or an online video course or subscription based website?
  • Would you like me to review your book/course?

Please send me a message at azsamad2 at gmail.com with:

For courses: a link to the course/video/product + access info etc.
For books: a link to the book (Dropbox) or PDF attachment (if it’s small) for review consideration.

Depending on whether I dig the book/course, I’ll let you know if I do plan to review it!

I cannot guarantee a review for every submission & if I’m not too into it, I may opt not to review it. I mean, it’s better to get a good review that for me to write a bad review just because it’s not a match for the kind of stuff I dig right? :p

NOTE: All reviews reflect my honest personal opinion so be aware that I will point out both cool Pros and Cons that I see in the work. You dig? 🙂

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