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It's funny how you can hear something you haven't heard for ages - years, maybe even decades - and a little snippet or riff makes you think "I know that tune!".

I was driving along this morning with CBC Radio 2 on, and I hear a jazz quartet. The sax sounds SO familiar. I think "Is that...? I think it is, but...let me wait and see". And about 6 minutes later, sure enough, I'm right. It is John Coltrane playing the classic A Love Supreme, and somehow I recognized it from a single riff out of the many hundreds it comprises.

Somewhere around 1970 or 71, there was a record lending/rental library in downtown Montreal, beside (then) Sir George Williams University (now Concordia). I rented the record, and recorded it on my reel-to-reel. I listened to it many times, but had not listened to it in a few decades. And yet, many of the riffs were so familiar and burnt into my memory, that I could instantly peg them as part of it. Keep in mind the album is essentially 4 tracks, the shortest of which is 7:05, and they are mostly improvisational, with brief returns to a theme now and then. So this is not like hearing the riff from Sunshine of Your Love or Smoke on the Water.

I'm sure plenty of you have had a similar experience, where, without any introduction or preparation, you hear the teensiest bit of a track, and you instantly recognize it. Could be something you hear on an elevator, or playing in the background at a supermarket, or some other unexpected location.
 
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