Original Jazz & Contemporary Music
Edith Lettner´s Freemotion “Taking Off”
CD- release concerts:
March 3, 2018 Metro Baptiste Church, 410 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018
Mai 16, 2018 ORF RadioKulturCafé, Argentinierstrasse 30a, 1040 Vienna
Edith Lettner – alto & soprano sax, duduk
Gerhard Franz Buchegger – piano, keyboards
Gerhard Graml – upright bass, electric bass
Stephan Brodsky – drums, percussion
Edith Lettner is an unique and versatile musician and composer who plays alto and soprano saxophone as well as the duduk, an Armenian woodwind instrument. She is known for her performances of African and Middle Eastern music as well as Jazz and improvisational music, where her primary interests and exceptional musicality lie.
For years she had envisioned an open musical landscape for creative ideas without stylistic limitations. She realized that vision in Vienna in 2005 when she founded Freemotion, her own quartet of remarkable, like-minded musicians dedicated to playing all original compositions.The result has been the ever evolving creation of groovy, melodic and varied jazz, which at times sweeps dramatically through a broad spectrum of emotions and sound imagery, but just as frequently imparts pure, simple joy in the creative flow of sound and rhythm. Theirs is complex music; harmonies are simultaneously juxtaposed with atonal melodies and solos, and rhythms vary over a wide spectrum both within and between compositions in what Lettner describes as original “groove creations” influenced by African and minimal music and hip hop beats and swing. But make no mistake, complexity does not come at the expense of accessibility; this is a music of universal enchantment, appealing equally to the finely tuned sensibilities of the long-time jazz aficionado and the general appreciator of good music regardless of genre.
Lettner, who is well known in the New York jazz scene, composes most of the group’s music, although she regularly brings in compositions from the other band members, whom she thinks of as “sound artists”: Gerhard Graml (upright & electric bass), Gerhard Franz Buchegger (piano & keyboard) & Stefan Brodsky (drums & percussion) are widely known and respected musicians in Vienna. This is a tight band. It has to be given the complexity of the music nested within a governing spirit of Free Motion which opens up plenty of space for improvisation and dynamic interaction.
freemotion ist ein offenes musikalisches Spielfeld für kreative Ideen ohne stilistische Begrenzungen. Gespielt werden Eigenkompositionen der Bandmitglieder, die den Musikern viel Freiraum für Improvisation und dynamisches Zusammenspiel lassen. So entsteht sehr abwechslungsreicher Jazz, der mal ein breites Spektrum an Emotionen durchläuft und mal einfach pure Freude am kreativen Umgang mit Klang und Rhythmus wider-spiegelt. Atonale Melodien und Soli stehen dabei gleichwertig neben harmonischen Klängen. Die komplexen Kompositionen enthalten eine Vielfalt von Rhythmus- und Groovekreationen, die manchmal von Afrikanischer Musik, Minimal Music oder Hip-Hop-Beats inspiriert sind- auch Swing findet da seinen Platz. Die Saxophonistin und Komponistin Edith Lettner, die seit einiger Zeit halb in Wien, halb in New York lebt, spielte Anfang des Sommers mit ihrer Band Freemotion eine neue CD ein Freemotion- Taking Off, Label: artdialogue 007) In dem 2005 von ihr gegründeten Bandprojekt freemotion vereint sie Klangkünstler, die alle auf einen reichhaltigen Erfahrungsschatz aus Jazz und Worldmusic zurückgreifen können. (siehe Beiblatt „Musikerinfos“)
“Our jazz compositions are influenced by a pretty eclectic range of music.” – Edith Lettner
And so it is with moods and textures that vary from swing to African tinged melodies, the composer duties [being] shared with Lettner who said: “I invited the other members to contribute some of their own compositions.”
The CD has an appropriate title: Taking Off. And that’s exactly what this quartet does from the first note onward with well integrated ensemble and solo work, Lettner’s horn always fronting the group though she never imposes her will upon the other players, giving them equal time to solo. The music is complex yet compact and right there. Filled with so many moods and colors. Comping, swinging, juxtaposing ideas, sounds, feelings.
Lettner has this unique, trippy inside revelation of sound energies. Bright. Happy yet suddenly filled with dark auras and restraint and the other members follow suit with perfect (h)earing and harmonies. She has a tight full melodic sound/tone . . . Clarity and density.
Jazz as innovator. As progressive historian whose architecture comes in all forms. The foundation for the intermingling of all musical languages, be it African, European, American or that which has not yet been found and/or named.
With this CD Lettner and company bring disparate genres of Jazz together, providing evidence for the proven and yet to be proven. Here we are steeped in daring yet practical decisions. The artist alone with his or her river to cross and the artist who jumps right in. Lettner and the others are not afraid to take the leap. Listen. Challenge yourself. Absorb. Then take that leap with them.
Steve Dalachinsky – Berlin September 2017
World Music / Jazz
Baboulaye Sissoko- kora, vocals (Senegal)
Edith Lettner- alto & soprano saxophone (Austria)
Julia Siedl- keyboard, piano (Austria)
Cheikh Ndao- bass (Senegal)
Karim Thiam- percussion (Senegal)
Mame Birane Mboup- percussion
Robert Castelli- drums (USA)
Mixing jazz and African music is an irresistible challenge, one deeply rooted in history, but surprisingly tricky to handle. Edith Lettner and African Jazz Spirit have managed a beautifully balanced meeting of genres. Signature flourishes from Baboulaye Sissoko’s ancient kora (African harp) meld seamlessly with Julia Siedl’s jazz piano riffs. Lettner’s saxophone converses easily with Sissoko’s kora flights and also his distinctly Senegalese vocals—the timeless voice of the griot. Bassist and project co-founder Cheikh Ndao holds down supple and solid grooves throughout. The integration of rhythms is also excellent in these performances, as jazz waltz morphs into West African 6/8 time, animated by crackerjack Senegalese percussion and spot-on trap drumming by Robert Castelli. Lettner’s own compositions reveal impressive intimacy with West African rhythmic and melodic sensibilities. Trust Your Way is both a reconnection of long-ago musical DNA, and a brave step into the future.
Banning Eyre, Senior Editor for afropop.org
Allesandro Vicard – double bass
Edith Lettner – alto & soprano saxophone, duduk
RARA Improvised Music Festival 2015.
The 5rd edition of RARA takes place in July 2015, in Palazzolo Acreide, Siracusa (Italy).
The Festival serves as a platform for contemporary improvised music, electronic music and video art.
RARA is an unprecedented cultural initiative to empower and give room to local artists and performers from abroad. The Festival presents an opportunity for a creative exchange and makes accessible non-mainstream culture to a broader audience.
Jazz / World Music
Warren Smith – vibraphone, drums
Edith Lettner – alto & soprano saxophone
Alex Blake – bass
Leopoldo F. Fleming – percussion
T￼￼￼￼￼￼he African and Caribbean Jazz Project plays mainly original compositions of the group’s members, who are all composers as well as standout musicians. A full warm sound, melodic spicy solos and vibrant grooves are the ingredients of this special world music and jazz flavored ensemble.
The Project sports a top of the line, worldclass percussion section featuring New York based, Puerto Rican born percussion player and composer Leopoldo F. Fleming, who worked with Nina Simone for more than 30 years as well as other musical giants such as Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, Novella Nelson, Lonnie Liston Smith,Sonny Stitt, Leon Thomas, Randy Weston, Archie Shepp, Kenny Barron, Horace Parlan, David Murray, and Jim Pepper among others. The Project’s group leader, Edith Lettner met Leopoldo in Vienna where he lived from 1987 to 1998, working together in the group Phone 3 Phone for several years and recording 2 CDs.
Warren Smith was a mainstay and cofounder of Max Roach’s M’Boom ensemble and leader of the Composer’s Workshop Ensemble, a New York based composition and performance ensemble. One of his earliest major recording dates was with Miles Davis as a Vibraphonist in 1957. He has also backed up Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole, Sam Rivers, Gil Evans, Janis Joplin and Tony Williams, Quincy Jones, Count Basie and Carmen McRae and many others. A master of all things percussive from the timpani to the vibraphone and drums, Smith’s warm shimmering marimba playing adds a touch of magic to whatever he plays.
Originally from Panama, Alex Blake started playing professionally when he was 12 years old playing with great percussionists such as Kako and Patato. By the time he was sixteen, Alex had reached the epitome of “outside” success by Europe touring and recording with Sun Ra. From there, at the ripe old age of sixteen, Alex had moved on to play and tour internationally with Dizzy Gillespie, which catapulted the demand for his ingenuity on the bass, around the world. The calls poured in from Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, and many others who desired his inventive interpretations on the bass.
After becoming one of the major proponents of the fusion movement In the late 70’ with his writing and performances with Lenny White and Billy Cobham, Alex established himself as a drummer’s bassist. His range and ability, flow between melodic, and extremely rhythmic playing. His talent can be measured by the plenitude of masters who have called upon him for his inventive playing. They include: Dizzy Gillespie, Carlos Santana, Sonny Rollins, Sun Ra, Nancy Wilson, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Stan Getz, McCoy Tyner, Max Roach, Billy Cobham, The Manhattan Transfer, Astrud Gilberto, Pharaoh Sanders, Airto, Harry Belafonte, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jimmy Buffett, Jonathan Butler, Betty Carter, Charito Billy Cobham, Celia Cruz, Joey DeFrancesco, Chico Freeman, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Mac Gollehan, Norman Headman Weldon Irving, Ryo Kawasaki Earl Klugh, Pati LaBelle, The Last Poets, Yusef Lateef, Frank Lowe, Carmen Lundy, Manhattan Transfer, James Moody, Sun Ra, Doum Ramon, Carls Ward, Kazumi Watanabe, Lenny White, Nancy Wilson to name a few. Within the past decade and a half, he has performed with Randy Weston. Alex Blake has recorded on multiple Grammywinning albums, and was inducted into the Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame and Museum, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium in 2011.
Warren Smith – percussion, drums, vibraphone
Edith Lettner – alto & soprano saxophone, duduk
Ras Moshe Burnett- tenor saxophone & flutes
The CD “Dialogues live @ ShapeShifter Lab Brooklyn”, contains the live recording of a performance by Warren Smith & Edith Lettner in February 2014.
It is often said that music can transcend all boundaries. While coming from quite diverse backgrounds, with Warren born in
USA in 1934 and Edith born in Austria in 1964, the duo’s rapport comes through eloquently in their music.
World renowned percussionist Warren Smith was a mainstay and co-founder of Max Roach‘s M‘Boom ensemble and leader of the Composer‘s Workshop Ensemble, a New York based composition and performance ensemble. Smith is a master of all things percussive, from the vibraphone and marimba, to the drum set, timpani, and gong, among other instruments.
One of his earliest major recording dates was with Miles Davis as a Vibraphonist in 1957. He has worked with many great musicians and singers such as Sam Rivers, Anthony Braxton, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus, Tony Williams, Nina Simon, Aretha Franklyn, Van Morrison, Quincy Jones, Count Basie and Carmen McRae and many others. In the 1970s and 1980s Smith had a loft called Studio Wis which acted as a performing and recording space for many young New York jazz musicians, such as Wadada Leo Smith and Oliver Lake.
Improvised music is a passion of saxophonist and duduk player Edith Lettner. She has played with musicians from all over the world and she thrives on unusual performing situations. She improvises not only with musicians, but with artists of other genres such as dancers, visual artists and poets. Her own paintings and drawings are the results of an improvisational process.
Another CD release with improvised music “Aanderud/Hecht/Lettner – Live In Vienna 2011” is showcasing her spontaneity and improvisational skills; it contains the recording of a performance with the Mexican jazz musicans Mark Aanderud and Hernán Hecht whom Edith met for the first time in her life at this concert.
Warren Smith and Edith Lettner also welcome guests to perform with them, such as NY based poet Steve Dalachinsky, saxophonist and flutist Ras Moshe and dancer Anne Bassen. During Warren Smith ́s residency at The Stone in Feb. 2015 they performed with singer Katja Cruz and drummer Howard Curtis .
Edith also looks for opportunities to combine projected visuals of her art work with her live musical improvisations: while the musicians are playing inside the projections their improvisation is inflluenced by the visual impressions.
Ras Moshe was born in Brooklyn and he started studying music in
public school, with his father and his grandfather. Although he is
trained in earlier forms of “jazz”, his preferred mode of improvisation
is in the later or “free” developments of the music. Ras has also been
writing and reciting poetry since childhood. He believes in the positive
effect his music will have on social and personal change. “He has a
great smile and a heart of gold. His quiet demeanor is misleading
because when he plays, he explodes with excitement.“ Don Minasi,
All About Jazz
Yacouba Sissoko – kora
Banning Eyre – guitar
Edith Lettner – alto & soprano saxophone
Yacouba Sissoko is a Master Kora player from the Djely griot tradition. He was born in Mali. His grandfather, Samakoun Tounkara, began teaching Yacouba when he was 12 years old. Yacouba attended the Institut National des Arts du Mali in Bamako. After his graduation, he played with artists like Taye and Oumou Sacko, Haja Soumano, Djallou Demba, Ami Koita, Fantani Koure, Kandia Kouyate and l’Ensemble Instrumental du Mali. From 1993 to1998 he was performing all over the world with the Ensemble Koteba, the 45-piece band of Souleymane Koli. He has traveled to almost every nation on the African continent, as well as most of Europe, Canada, the US and Australia. He is in demand as one of the best kora players in the world, playing with jazz, Latin and R & B bands as well as traditional African ceremonies. As leader of his own band Siya, and member of the groups Super Mande Yacouba continues to play and record with many famous musicians, including the groups Source, Tamalalou, Fula Flute and Yacande. Absolutely outstanding are his collaborations with jazz violinist Regina Carter and singer Bobby McFerrin.
Banning Eyre is an author, guitarist, radio producer, and Senior Editor at Afropop.org. He has been researching and learning African guitar styles for over 20 years, including a seven-month apprenticeship with Malian guitar master Djelimady Tounkara. Eyre has developed an original composition and performance style that incorporates traditions from Mali, Congo, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and beyond, along with his own background in American fingerstyle guitar. He plays on four Thomas Mapfumo albums and his book on Thomas Mapfumo and the contemporary history of Zimbabwe will come out on Duke University Press in 2015. Eyre also played on a track on Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate’s Kulanjan (Hannibal 1999), which was voted Folk Roots “Album of the Year” in the UK. He performs with the band Timbila, and with various musicians playing African music in New York City.
Edith Lettner has played with numerous African musicians, mainly in Austria, Senegal and New York (e.g. Martino Attangana, Mandingo Ambassadors) for more than 20 years. In Senegal she worked with many great muscians – unknown and famous as well – such as Baboulaye Sissoko, Suleymane Faye, Orchestre National du Senegal, Thione Seck and Mansour Seck, best known for his collaboration with lifelong friend Baaba Maal. Edith has played with several kora players from the Griot tradition. 2010 she founded her own project African Jazz Spirit in Dakar/ Senegal, playing her own compositions and the compositions of bassist Cheikh Ndao. 2012 the group recorded it ́s first CD „Trust Your Way“ at the renowned jazz club Porgy & Bess in Vienna.