Edith Lettner – Musician (alto & soprano saxophone, duduk) Composer and Painter
Edith Lettner is one of those rare artists who excel in two diverse mediums, painting and music. She is best known, however, as a musician and composer. As to her preferred genres, the short answer is world music, jazz and improvised music. The real answer is any music that fascinates her enough – Middle Eastern, Senegalese, South African, Cameroonian, Congolese, Armenian, Afghan, Kurdish, improvisational music and, of course, interpretive Jazz, the more complex the better, be it contemporary, straight-ahead, free, or as-yet-to-be-defined. And it is here that her primary interest and exceptional musicality lies, with jazz and improvisational music.
Her childhood was filled with music ranging from the much played and much discussed classical recordings at home, to the nightly gatherings of traditional folk music at a neighboring farmer’s, where not joining in the singing was “not an option”. Edith’s musical training began at the age of 6 with piano lessons, which she continued off-and-on for the next 13 years. Although she still composes exclusively on the piano, she knew early on that it was not her instrument, not one she felt passionate enough about to master.
Her love affair with the saxophone began some years later, a romance that has only grown stronger over the intervening years. Her training consisted of her own curriculum; as she describes it, “I like to put myself in the middle of things and learn from there”. Edith traveled, collaborated and learned from musicians all over the world. She has performed with: Leopoldo F. Fleming (USA),Warren Smith (USA),Donald Smith (USA), Alex Blake (USA),Kenny Wessel (USA),Ras Moshe Burnett (USA), John Pietaro (USA), Matt Lavelle (USA), Jed Distler (USA),Howard Curtis (USA),Steve Dalachinsky (USA), Banning Eyre (USA), Yacouba Sissoko (Mali),Thione Seck (Senegal),Suleymane Faye (Senegal), Cheikh Ndao (Senegal),Vero La Reine (Cameroun),Prince Zeka (Kongo),Celia Mara (Brazil),Nariman Hodjati (Iran),Zoreh Jooya (Iran),Hernán Hecht (Mexico),Alessandro Vicard (Italy),Julia Siedl (Austria), Uli Scherer (Austria), Karl Sayer (Austria) and many others. In 2010 she founded the African Jazz Spirit project in Senegal. She also pursued formal training with Leo Wright, Manfred Balasch and Uli Scherer in Vienna, and Oscar Noriega and Patience Higgins in New York. As to her level of mastery, that question is quickly put to rest after hearing the first few bars of anything she plays. Then there is that intangible grail sought by all musicians – that ‘certain something’. In the words of J.F. O’Niel, “Lettner has it, and she has it in spades”.
For years she envisioned an open musical landscape within the jazz idiom for creative ideas without stylistic limitations. To that end, she formed Freemotion in 2005, her own ensemble of like-minded Viennese musicians. Her band’s newest CD, TAKING OFF, was released early in 2018 in the US and Europe. To again quote O’Niel, “. . .and here I suggest to all who read this, take note – this is a breakthrough album by four exceptionally talented musicians, one folks will be talking about, be you jazz or improvised music connoisseur, or simply a fan of exciting, compelling music; get your hands on this album. You owe it to yourself”. (Five tracks on the album are Lettner’s compositions.) In general, the press seems to be in agreement as all of the reviews have all been quite positive (see for yourself by clicking on the following link: press reviews
She has successfully exhibited her oil paintings and water colors widely and on three continents, Europe, Africa and North America. Her artistic ambitions emerged early; recognizing her interest in painting, her parents arranged for an art tutor when she was 5 years old. From then on she refused to work with anything less than professional grade artist material. She started exhibiting her paintings when she was 17, and has continued ever since. Her most recent exhibition was at the Salt Spring Gallery of Fine Arts on Salt Spring Island Canada in January 2018.
Born in Linz, Austria in 1964, at 18 she moved to Vienna, which became the principle base for her artistic pursuits. In 2011 she adapted New York as her second artistic home, and in 2017 she added a third location to the list, Salt Spring Island in western Canada where she concentrates on composing and practicing. When not traveling to gigs in other locations, she divides her time between these three ‘homes’.