Jack Bruce

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Jack Bruce
Jack Bruce.jpg
Bruce performing in Frankfurt, Germany
28 October 2006
Background information
Birth name John Symon Asher Bruce
Born (1943-05-14) 14 May 1943 (age 71)
Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire
Scotland
Genres Progressive rock, jazz fusion, blues rock, psychedelic rock, jazz
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards, harmonica, cello
Years active 1962–present
Labels EMI, RSO
Associated acts Cream, Blues Incorporated, the Graham Bond Organization, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Manfred Mann, West, Bruce & Laing, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Kip Hanrahan, BBM, Gary Moore, Rocket 88
Website jackbruce.com
Notable instruments
Fender Bass VI
Danelectro Longhorn
Gibson EB-3
Gibson EB-1
Warwick Thumb Signature
Warwick Jack Bruce CRB

John Symon Asher "Jack" Bruce (born 14 May 1943) is a Scottish musician and composer, known as a founder member of the British psychedelic rock power trio, Cream, in the late 1960s.

He has maintained a solo career to date that spans several decades, and also has participated in several critically acclaimed musical ensembles. Easily recognised as a memorable vocalist and bass guitarist, Bruce has been referred to as a "World-class pioneer in his main instrument; a composer of some of the most endurable and recognisable rock songs of our time; an accomplished classical, jazz and Latin musician and one of popular music's most distinctive and evocative voices."[1] Bruce is also trained as a classical cellist. However, despite the other genres of music with which he is associated, Bruce has always considered himself to be a jazz musician, although much of his catalogue of compositions and recordings tend to evoke the blues and rock and roll. The Sunday Times stated "... many consider him to be one of the greatest bass players of all time."[2]

Early life[edit]

Bruce was born on 14 May 1943, in Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire to musical parents who moved frequently, resulting in the young Bruce attending 14 different schools, ending up at Bellahouston Academy. Bruce began playing the jazz bass in his teens, and won a scholarship to study cello and musical composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, while playing in Jim McHarg's Scotsville Jazzband to support himself.[3] The Academy disapproved of its students playing jazz, however. "They found out," Bruce told Musician correspondent Jim Macnie, "and said 'you either stop, or leave college.' So I left college."

Career[edit]

After leaving school, he toured Italy, playing double bass with the Murray Campbell Big Band.[4] In 1962, Bruce became a member of the London-based band Blues Incorporated,[5] led by Alexis Korner, in which he played the upright bass. The band also included organist Graham Bond, saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith and drummer Ginger Baker. In 1963, the group broke up and Bruce went on to form the Graham Bond Quartet with Bond, Baker, and guitarist John McLaughlin.[3] They played an eclectic range of music genres, including bebop, blues and rhythm and blues. As a result of session work at this time, Bruce switched from the upright bass to the electric bass guitar. The move to electric bass happened as McLaughlin was dropped from the band; he was replaced by Heckstall-Smith on saxophone and the band pursued a more concise R&B sound and changed its name to the Graham Bond Organisation. They released two studio albums and several singles, but were not commercially successful.

In 1964, Jack Bruce married Janet Godfrey who had been the secretary of the Graham Bond Organisation fan club, and had collaborated with Bruce on two songs written for the group.[4]

During the time Bruce and Baker played with the Graham Bond Organisation, they were known for their hostility towards each other. There were numerous stories of the two sabotaging each other's equipment and fighting on stage. Hostility grew so severe between the two that Bruce left the group in August 1965.[6]

After he left, Bruce recorded a solo single, "I'm Gettin Tired", for Polydor Records.[3] He joined John Mayall and his John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers group, which featured guitarist Eric Clapton. Although his stay was brief; the Universal Deluxe double album Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton contains all the known tracks featuring Bruce.

After the Bluesbreakers, Bruce tasted his first commercial success as a member of Manfred Mann in 1966, including "Pretty Flamingo" which reached number one in the UK singles chart (one of two number one records of his career - the other being an uncredited bass part on The Scaffold's Lily the Pink)[3] as well as the freewheeling and ground-breaking jazz-rock of Instrumental Asylum. When interviewed on the episode of the VH1 show, Classic Albums, which featured Disraeli Gears, Mayall stated that Bruce had been lured away by the lucrative commercial success of Manfred Mann while Mann himself recalled that Bruce attended recording sessions without having rehearsed but played songs straight through without error, opining that perhaps the chord changes seemed obvious to Bruce.[7]

Whilst with Manfred Mann, Bruce again collaborated with Eric Clapton as a member of Powerhouse, which also featured the Spencer Davis Group vocalist Steve Winwood credited as Steve Anglo. The 3 tracks were featured on the Elektra sampler album What's Shakin'. Two of the songs, "Crossroads" and "Steppin' Out", were to become staples in the live set of his next band.

Cream[edit]

Main article: Cream (band)

In July 1966 Bruce, Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker founded the power trio Cream, which gained international recognition playing blues-rock and jazz inflected rock music. Bruce sang most of the lead vocals, with Clapton backing him up and eventually assuming some leads himself.[7]

Bruce, with his Gibson EB-3 electric bass, became one of the most famous bassists in rock, winning musicians' polls and influencing the next generation of bassists such as Sting, Geddy Lee and Jeff Berlin.[8] Bruce co-wrote most of Cream's single releases with lyricist Pete Brown, including the hits, "Sunshine of Your Love", "White Room", and "I Feel Free". In 1968, Cream broke up.[9]

The solo years 1960s–70s[edit]

Jack Bruce performing in 1972

Collaborative efforts with musicians, in many genres – hard rock, jazz, blues, R&B, fusion, avant-garde, world music, third stream classical – have all been a continuing theme of Bruce's career. Alongside these he has produced a long line of highly regarded solo albums. In contrast to his collaborative works, the solo albums usually maintain a common theme: melodic songs with a complex musical structure, songs with lyrics frequently penned by Pete Brown, and a core band of world class musicians. This structure is loosened on his live solo albums and DVDs, where extended improvisations similar to those employed by Cream in live performance are sometimes still used.

In August 1968, before Cream split, Bruce recorded an acoustic free jazz album with John McLaughlin, Dick Heckstall-Smith, and Jon Hiseman.[3] This was issued in 1970 as Bruce's second solo album, Things We Like. The album was a precursor to the jazz fusion boom in the early 1970s, and more recently has been sampled by many[who?] hip hop artists.

Bruce's first solo release, Songs for a Tailor, was issued in September 1969, and also featured Heckstall-Smith and Hiseman.[3] It was a worldwide hit, but, after a brief supporting tour backed by Larry Coryell and Mitch Mitchell, Bruce joined the jazz fusion group Lifetime. With drummer Tony Williams, guitarist John McLaughlin, and organist Larry Young, the group recorded two albums. Bruce joined on the second album, Turn It Over. However, Lifetime did not receive much critical or commercial acclaim at the time, and the band broke up in 1971. Bruce then recorded his third solo album Harmony Row, but this was not as commercially successful as Songs for a Tailor.[3]

In 1972, Bruce formed a blues rock power trio, West, Bruce & Laing. Besides Bruce, the group included singer/guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing, both formerly of the Cream-influenced American band Mountain. West, Bruce & Laing produced two studio albums, Why Dontcha and Whatever Turns You On, and one live album, Live 'n' Kickin'.

Bruce onstage playing as part of West, Bruce and Laing, at the Hollywood Palladium

The band's break-up was announced shortly before Live 'n' Kickin's release in early 1974, and Bruce released his fourth solo album Out of the Storm later that year. Also in 1974 he made a guest appearance on the title track of Frank Zappa's album Apostrophe. Bruce was credited with bass and for co-writing the song. However, when asked about Zappa in a 1992 interview Bruce tried to change the subject and jokingly insisted that he had played only cello parts. In 1973, Bruce recorded bass guitar for Lou Reed's Berlin album playing on all but two tracks.

A 1975 tour was lined up to support the Out of the Storm album with a band featuring former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor and jazz keyboard player Carla Bley, with whom he had collaborated in 1971 on Escalator over the Hill. The tour was documented on Live '75 (at Manchester's Free Trade Hall),[10] but it ended with Taylor's departure, and no studio album was completed.

In 1977, Bruce formed a new band with drummer Simon Phillips and keyboardist Tony Hymas. The group recorded an album, called How's Tricks. A world tour followed, but the album was a commercial failure.[3] The follow-up album Jet Set Jewel, while since commercially released, was rejected by Bruce's record label RSO upon its initial completion as not being marketable, and RSO ultimately dropped Bruce from their roster in 1978. In 1979, Bruce toured with members from the Mahavishnu Orchestra, reuniting him with John McLaughlin, and introducing him to drummer Billy Cobham. A 3-CD collection of his 1970s BBC recordings called Spirit was released in 2008.

The solo years 1980s[edit]

By 1979, Bruce's drug habit had reached such a level that he had lost most of his money. In that year he married his second wife, Margrit Seyffer.[11] Bruce contributed as a session musician to recordings by Cozy Powell, Gary Moore and Jon Anderson to raise money. By 1980 his career was back on track with his new band, Jack Bruce & Friends, consisting of drummer Billy Cobham, guitarist Clem Clempson, and keyboardist/guitarist David Sancious. After releasing an album, I've Always Wanted to Do This at the end of 1980, they undertook a long tour to support the record, but it was not a commercial success and they disbanded. In the early 1980s, he also joined up to play with friends from the Alexis Korner days in Rocket 88, the back-to-the-roots band that Ian Stewart had arranged, and Bruce appears on the album of the same name, recorded live in Germany in 1980. They also recorded a "live in the studio" album called Blues & Boogie Explosion for the German audiophile record label, Jeton. That year he also collaborated on the Soft Machine album Land of Cockayne (1981).

In 1981, Bruce collaborated with guitarist Robin Trower and released two power trio albums, BLT and Truce, the first of which was a minor hit in the United States.[3] By 1983 Bruce was out of contract with the major record companies, and he released his next solo album Automatic only on a minor German label, Intercord INT 145.069. A European tour followed to promote the album enlisting Bruce Gary from The Knack (who had also played in Jack Bruce's 1975 band) on drums and Sancious from his 1980 band (Jack Bruce & Friends) on guitar and keyboards. In 1982 Bruce played with a short-lived ensemble "A Gathering of Minds" comprising Billy Cobham, Allan Holdsworth, Didier Lockwood and David Sancious at Montreux. In 1983 he sang on tracks 5–6 of the Allan Holdsworth album 'Road Games'.

In 1983 Bruce began working with the Latin/world music producer Kip Hanrahan, and released the collaborative albums Desire Develops an Edge, Vertical's Currency, A Few Short Notes from the End Run, Exotica and All Roads Are Made of the Flesh. They were all critically successful, and in 2001 he went on to form his own band using Hanrahan's famous Cuban rhythm section. Other than his partnership with lyricist Pete Brown, the musical relationship with Hanrahan has been the most consistent and long-lasting of his career.

In 1985 he sang lead and played blues harp on the song "Silver Bullet" with Anton Fier's Golden Palominos. It appears on the album "Visions of Excess". In 1986 he re-recorded the Cream song "I Feel Free" and released it as a single to support an advertising campaign for the Renault 21 motor car. A solo album, Something Els, recorded in Germany between 1986 and 1992, reunited him with Eric Clapton, and brought belated, but widespread critical acclaim.[12]

The solo years 1990s[edit]

In 1989, Bruce began recording material with Ginger Baker and released another solo album, A Question of Time.[3] Baker and Bruce toured the United States at turn of the decade. Bruce played at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1990, and was invited by Irish blues rock performer, Rory Gallagher (who had a long-standing relationship with Bruce, having supported Cream's farewell concert in the band Taste in 1968) to perform a couple of songs together onstage. In 1993 Baker appeared, along with a host of former Bruce band colleagues, at a special concert in Cologne to celebrate Bruce's 50th birthday. A special guest was another Irish blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore. The concert recordings with Moore were released as the live double album Cities of the Heart. On the back of this successful gig Bruce, Baker and Moore formed the power trio BBM, and their subsequent (and only) album Around the Next Dream was a top ten hit in the UK.[3] However, the old Bruce/Baker arguments arose again and the subsequent tour was cut short and the band broke up. A low-key solo album, Monkjack, followed in 1995, featuring Bruce on piano and vocals accompanied by Funkadelic organist Bernie Worrell.

Bruce then began work producing and arranging the soundtrack to the independently produced Scottish film The Slab Boys with Lulu, Edwyn Collins, Eddi Reader and the Proclaimers. The soundtrack album appeared in 1997. In 1997 he returned to touring as a member of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band, which also featured Peter Frampton on guitar. At the gig in Denver, Colorado the band was joined on stage by Ginger Baker, and Bruce, Baker and Frampton played a short set of Cream classics. He continued to tour with Ringo through 2000.

The solo years 2000s[edit]

Bruce playing a fretless Warwick Thumb bass guitar at the Jazzfestival in Frankfurt, Germany on 28 October 2006

In 2001 Bruce reappeared with his most successful band of recent times featuring Bernie Worrell, Vernon Reid of Living Colour on guitar and Kip Hanrahan's three-piece Latin rhythm section. Hanrahan also produced the accompanying album Shadows in the Air, which included a reunion with Eric Clapton on a new version of "Sunshine of Your Love". The band released another Hanrahan produced studio album, More Jack than God, in 2003, and a live DVD, Live at Canterbury Fayre.

Bruce had suffered a period of declining health, and in the summer of 2003 was diagnosed with liver cancer. In September 2003, he underwent a liver transplant, which was almost fatal, as his body initially rejected the new organ.[13] He has since recovered, and in 2004 reappeared to perform "Sunshine of Your Love" at a Rock Legends concert in Germany organised by the singer Mandoki.

In May 2005, he reunited with former Cream bandmates Clapton and Baker for a series of well-received concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall,[14] released as the album Royal Albert Hall London May 2–3–5–6 2005, and New York's Madison Square Garden.

In between the UK and US Cream dates he also played live with Gary Moore and drummer Gary Husband at the Dick Heckstall-Smith tribute concert in London.

Subsequent concert appearances were sparse because of recovery after the transplant, but in 2006 Bruce returned to the live arena with a show of Cream and solo classics performed with the German HR (Hessischer Rundfunk) Big Band. This was released on CD in Germany in 2007 to critical acclaim. In 2007, he made a brief concert appearance, opening a new rehearsal hall named in his honour at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow with Clem Clempson, keyboard player Ronnie Leahy and Husband.

In 2008, Bruce collaborated again with guitarist Robin Trower on the album Seven Moons. It also featured Husband.

In May 2008 Bruce was 65 years old and to commemorate this milestone two box sets of recordings were released. Spirit is a three-CD collection of Bruce's BBC recordings from the 1970s. Can You Follow? is a six-CD retrospective anthology released by the Esoteric label in the UK. This anthology is a wide ranging collection covering his music from 1963 to 2003 and, aside from his work with Kip Hanrahan, is a comprehensive overview of his career.

Improved health led to Bruce playing a series of live outdoor concerts across the US starting in July 2008 as part of the Hippiefest Tour. He was supported by members of the late Who bassist's The John Entwistle Band, and headlined at a tribute concert to the bassist.

In November 2008 he recorded a concert in Birmingham, England for Radio Broadcast with the BBC Big Band, where he again played the Big Band arrangements of his classic songs. In December he was reunited with Ginger Baker at the drummer's Lifetime Achievement Award concert in London. They played jazz classics with saxophonist Courtney Pine and for the first time in 40 years played the Graham Bond–Cream classic "Traintime".

The same month, Bruce, with guitarist Vernon Reid, drummer Cindy Blackman and organist John Medeski played a series of Blue Note Club tribute concerts to The Tony Williams Lifetime in Japan. These shows were broadcast High Definition on television in Japan.

In spring 2009 a series of concerts was performed with Trower and Husband in Europe. Proposed dates in the US in April were cancelled because of a further bout of ill health. Bruce recovered and the band played summer concerts in Italy, Norway and the UK during 2009. This promoted the release of the Seven Moons live CD and DVD, recorded in February during the European leg of the tour in Nijmegen, Netherlands.

During the Scottish dates of the 2009 tour Bruce was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Glasgow Caledonian University for services to the culture of Glasgow and music in general.

In August 2009, the 1983 Jack Bruce solo album Automatic was released on CD. With this release, all his solo albums from his 1969 debut Songs for a Tailor onwards have become available on CD as well. In addition, all the discs up to and including How's Tricks contain added, previously unreleased material.

The solo years 2010s[edit]

In October 2009, Bruce performed at the 50th anniversary of Ronnie Scott's Club with the Ronnie Scott's Blues Band. After garnering good reviews, three further dates at the club were added in March 2010.

Composing Himself: Jack Bruce The Authorised Biography by Harry Shapiro was released by Jawbone Press in February 2010. Shapiro has previously written biographies of Bruce collaborators Alexis Korner, Graham Bond and Eric Clapton. The book followed biographies from his Cream bandmates Clapton (Clapton 2007) and Baker (Hellraiser 2009). His songwriting partner, Pete Brown's, biography White Rooms & Imaginary Westerns was published in September 2010. They each have differing recollections of forming Cream, playing and writing together. The separate accounts are not totally consistent, or complimentary, but considering their admitted drug use during the period in the biographies, that is hardly surprising.

On 14 January, at the 2011 North American Music Merchants Show, Bruce became only the third recipient of the International Bassist Award, a lifetime achievement award for bassists, after Jaco Pastorius and Nathan Watts. Larry Hartke co-founder of Hartke Systems, manufacturers of bass guitar amplifiers and speaker cabinets, presented the award. "Simply put, Jack Bruce is the reason I became interested in the bass", says Hartke. "Jack changed the role of bass in music and made playing the instrument look like fun. It was my greatest honor to present the International Bassist Award to my hero and friend".[citation needed]

The first website CD release, Live at the Milkyway, Amsterdam 2001, featuring his Latin-based band of the time, was issued in October 2010. The double album received an official UK release, distributed by EMI in February 2011. To support this release Bruce again played four dates in London at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club with the Ronnie Scott's Blues Experience, followed by a further ten dates across the UK with the band. This is Bruce's third successive year playing a series of gigs at Ronnie Scott's.

Prior to the UK dates the Lifetime Tribute Band; featuring Bruce, guitarist Vernon Reid, drummer Cindy Blackman, and organist John Medeski reformed to play ten shows in high profile jazz clubs in North America. Reaction to the US Lifetime shows was positive and the band renamed themselves Spectrum Road, after a track on 1969's first Lifetime album Emergency, and recorded a new album during April 2011.

On 4 June 2011, Bruce played a special concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary. The evening celebrated the 50th anniversary of the blues in Great Britain, and Bruce played with his Big Blues Band and special guest Joe Bonamassa.

Festival appearances with his Big Blues Band continue throughout the UK and Europe during summer 2011. An exception was the Cornbury Festival, Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire on 3 July where Bruce appeared as a special guest of the Stax label tribute band, The Staxs. The festival was recorded by Abbey Road Studios.

Bruce started 2012 playing the Gerry Rafferty tribute concert in Glasgow, followed by a date with the traditional Celtic band Lau. BBC Scotland recorded a one hour special on Bruce, which also included a performance with Lau. The completed documentary Jack Bruce – The Man behind the Bass was transmitted in February 2012 on BBC Scotland. It featured new interviews, with Bruce, Clapton, Baker and Brown, as well as the concert footage featuring new versions of six career spanning songs, "We're Going Wrong", "Sunshine of Your Love", "Weird of Hermiston", "Theme for an Imaginary Western", "Keep it Down" and "Child Song".

February 2012 saw Bruce playing in Havana, Cuba, along with guitarist Phil Manzanera, supporting the mambo band of Augusto Enriquez. March saw another residency at Ronnie Scott's in London supported by his Big Blues Band, followed by a UK tour. The concert at the Stables, Milton Keynes on 18 March was due to be recorded as an Instant Live CD release, but technical issues prevented this. The following evenings performance at the same location was recorded and a 2CD version issued by Instant Live.

Spectrum Road was released in June 2012 by the US jazz record label Palmetto Records.[15] It is accompanied by a series of dates at large jazz festivals in North America and Europe throughout June and July.

Bruce released new studio album Silver Rails in March 2014 on the Esoteric Antenna[16] record label.

Solo discography[edit]

The discographies of bands Jack Bruce has been a member of and the collaborations with other artists can be found in within their individual profiles.

Jack Bruce's solo albums are listed below in chronological recording date order. As of October 2009 they are all available on Compact Disc release. Those with an asterisk * feature bonus material not available on the original vinyl or CD release.

Studio albums[edit]

Date Albums
September 1969 Songs for a Tailor *
December 1970 Things We Like *
(recorded Aug 1968)
September 1971 Harmony Row *
November 1974 Out of the Storm *
March 1977 How's Tricks *
1978 Jet Set Jewel
(released 2003)
December 1980 I've Always Wanted To Do This
January 1983 Automatic
1987 Somethin Els
(released March 1993)
January 1990 A Question of Time
September 1995 Monkjack
July 2001 Shadows in the Air
September 2003 More Jack than God
March 2014 Silver Rails

Live albums[edit]

Date Albums
June 1975 Live at Manchester Free Trade Hall '75
(2-CD released 2003)
1971–1978 Spirit- Live at the BBC 1971–1978
(3-CD released 2008)
March 1994 Cities of the Heart
(live double album)
October 2001 Live at the Milky Way
(Released October 2010)
December 2007 Live with the HR Big Band

Compilation[edit]

Date Album
May 2008 The Anthology – Can You Follow?
(6-CD)

[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harry Shapiro (1 March 2010). Jack Bruce Composing Himself: The Authorized Biography. Jawbone Press. p. 19. ISBN 1-906002-26-6. 
  2. ^ Cairns, Dan (1 June 2008). "Jack Bruce, ace of bass". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 127–128. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  4. ^ a b Welch, Chris (2000). Cream: The Legendary Sixties Supergroup. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0879306243. 
  5. ^ "Good Scottish Pop – Jack Bruce". Firstfoot.com. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Shapiro, Harry (2004). Graham Bond: The Mighty Shadow. Crossroads Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-1872747071. 
  7. ^ a b "Cream - Disraeli Gears". Classic Albums. 3 November 2006. VH1.
  8. ^ Jisi, Chris (November 2005). "Cream Rises". Bass Player. Archived from the original on 2009-03-21. 
  9. ^ Jack Bruce interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1970)
  10. ^ "The Jack Bruce Band: Live '75 – review". Cloudsandclocks.net. 10 June 2003. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  11. ^ Clash, James M. "Cream Reunion". Forbes. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  12. ^ "Jack Bruce official website – Somethin Els (1993)". Jack Bruce Music. Retrieved 15 February 2012. 
  13. ^ Dansby, Andrew (16 October 2003). "Jack Bruce on the Mend | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  14. ^ "Clapton returns for Cream dates". BBC News. 3 May 2005. 
  15. ^ Jurek, Thom (4 June 2012). "Spectrum Road – Spectrum Road : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  16. ^ "Jack Bruce to Release New Studio Album on Esoteric Antenna" (Press release). Esoteric Antenna. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 

Further Reading[edit]

  • Tast, Brigitte; Tast, Hans-Jürgen. be bop – Die Wilhelmshöhe rockt. Disco und Konzerte in der Hölle (in German). Hildesheim: Verlag Gebrüder Gerstenberg. ISBN 978-3-8067-8589-0. 

External links[edit]