Austrian-born, NYC-based saxophonist Edith Lettner has created a stunningly original new recording. Everything—writing, soloing, rhythms, textures, interplay within the band—feels organic, coming at the listener in a way that doesn’t so much announce itself as quietly enters one’s consciousness. The first thing one notices on opener “Schönberg Blues” is the robust sound of Lettner’s saxophone. She is on alto here and the tune and title suggest atonality as well as deeply soulful essence. The rhythm players deftly complement Lettner’s wail and soon pianist Gerhard Franz Buchegger (the tune’s composer) plays a swift, commanding solo before he and Lettner trade fours, leading into a quickfire ending. Buchegger also contributed the rag-like “Who’s That From”, which changes to a more straightahead feel in its bridge.
Lettner is revelatory on her soprano, exploring the instrument’s humor and light grace yet also its authoritative seriousness. Another thing this album wears, not on its sleeve but in the innermost recesses of every note, is cultural diversity. The sinuous line of the leader’s “Q-Train” suggests an Eastern sensibility, hint of minimalism in its repeating second section, a hypnotic dance and, finally, the motion of the title vehicle while bassist Gerhard Graml’s “LAX” has a compelling pulse spurred by the composer and a rich mix of instruments.
Lettner’s tunes are rich in motion, change and surprise. “Lost” rings from her soprano and is both
accessible and challenging. The album closes with an extended live performance, Treibholz/Driftwood”, on which Lettner plays both duduk, an Armenian double-reed instrument, and alto. Surrounding her is an astonishing blend of ensemble and individual prowess, emotional gravitas as well as tenderness.
The mix absolutely defines how Edith Lettner makes music.
Donald Elfman – New York City Jazz Record, 09/2018
Edith Lettner’s Freemotion Taking Off
When it comes to incorporating various ethno-musics – particularly those culled from the African and Middle Eastern diasporas, respectively – then recontexualizing them through the lens of modern jazz and asserting a definitive voice, Edith Lettner has few peers.
The Austrian alto and soprano saxophonist accomplishes the lofty artistic pursuit with graceful ingenuity, as she fronts her longstanding combo, Freemotion. She wields a grainy, vigorous tone on saxophones, and often favors searing melodies that brim with braying and growling dissonance. And while the compositions on Taking Off undoubtedly tilt toward the avant-garde, the music still can swing hard.
It’s on Lettner’s “Treibholz/Driftwood,” the disc’s final cut, however, that it seems as if all of the band’s powers coalesce. Recorded live in Vienna during 2016, the episodic composition features Lettner playing the duduk (an Armenian double-reed instrument) and alto, as the rhythmic pulse continuously morphs while the ensemble crafts alluring melodicism, virtuosic showmanship and surging emotional warmth.
Taklng Off: Schonberg Blues; Q.Train; LAX; Lost; DoktorGupta; Passage; Blue ‘N’Purple; Alert; Who’s That From; Treibholz/Driftwood.(73:01)
Personnel: EdithLettner.alto saxophone.soprano saxophone.duduk: Gerhard Franz Buchegger, piano.keyboard; GerhardGram!.bass,electric bass; Stephan Brodsky.drums.percussion.
John Murph – Downbeat Magazine, 07/2018
Born in Linz, the passionate cosmopolitan circulates between Vienna, New York, Africa and God knows where else. And all with her saxophones to learn from others, to jam with musicians, to record in studios and to prolong her exciting journey through the musical and artistic cosmos. And that is how the music of the equally talented painter’s sounds consequently: Contemporary Jazz with massive components of world music of various origins.
In some tunes (e.g. “Lost”) one notices and hears what a deep connection to African culture Ms. Lettner has and which she cultivates. 2 musicians in their quartet also contribute their own compositions: Gerhard Franz Buchegger (p, kb) and Gerhard Graml (b); the drummer, Stephan Brodsky, takes care of the right time, which shouldn’t be that easy. The 11 Tracks have complex structures with always astonishing surprises.
The final track of the album, “Driftwood”, was recorded live at the RadioKulturhaus Wien and inspires the wish to experience Freemotion at a concert.
ewei – Concerto, 06/2018
(translated from the original German – Concerto is an Austrian music publication for all genres)
Edith Lettner presents her new CD “Taking Off” at the ORF RadioKulturhaus in Vienna on May 16. The saxophonist and composer recorded the album with her ensemble Freemotion, founded in 2005. She comments: “Freemotion is a musical playing field for ideas without stylistic limitations -for compositions of the band members, which open a lot of freedom for improvisation and dynamic interaction. The result is eclectic, melodious jazz that goes through a broad spectrum of emotions and reflects the joy of sound and rhythm. “Atonal chains of melody stand on an equal footing with harmonic sounds.” Some of the pieces are inspired by African music, minimal music or hip hop. Info:www.edith-lettner.net
Jazzpodium Article, 05/2018
The Austrian saxophonist Edith Lettner has been active in the jazz scene for quite some time. She had actually begun to make a name for herself as a painter. Due to her enthusiasm for jazz, she bought an alto saxophone in 1988 and quickly gained the necessary competence to perform as a professional musician. Her most important teacher was Leo Wright, later also Oscar Noriega.The soprano saxophone and the duduk, an Armenian wind instrument, were added. In 2005, she founded her own band called “freemotion”, but it was only now, in 2017, that the first CD of this formation was recorded, which still includes Gerhard Graml on bass and Stephan Brodsky on drums. Before that, in 2010, Lettner had recorded a CD with the group “African Jazz Spirit”, in which her great interest, indeed her love, for African music manifested itself. Her very broad musical horizon is also clearly audible on this CD. “Taking Off” is an ideal combination of jazz and world music. Edith Lettner sees herself as a connecting element between cultures, but also between visual arts, music and dance. She considers herself a cosmopolitan beyond all national and cultural borders. “I always try to tell a story and address emotions, whether I’m improvising, composing or playing a given melody,” she explains her intentions. The musicians of her quartet, (besides those already mentioned, this includes the pianist is Gerhard Franz Buchegger) share the compositions, which all reflect the cosmopolitanism of the group. This debut CD from “freemotion” is an impressive, successful and trend-setting work.
Teddy Doering – Jazzpodium, 06/2018
(translated from the original German text – Jazzpodium is a German magazine and the authoritative German language jazz publication)
Ears on female saxophone players
The reed swings softly, richly and languid
In the 1970s the British Barbara Thompson held iconic status: she was the woman with the sax. After that, musicians like Candy Dulfer, Matana Roberts, Lisa Simpson et al. made sure that female saxophonists are no longer such an unusual sight. In this country Viola Falb and Edith Lettner are the torch bearers on the sax. The latter has just released her latest album with the quartet Edith Lettner´s Freemotion. The energetic output does justice to the title “Taking Off”(Artdialogue), at the same time the band has enough traction not to “take off” completely. The spectrum ranges from nostalgic swing with a wink to catchy funky groove, whereby the playing time of 73 minutes with all the variety is a bit ample”.
The Berlin Concert (Intakt), recorded in November 2017, takes 50 minutes on CD. Together with Christopher Tordini (b) and Tyshawn Sorey (dr) the Polish-born alto saxophonist Angelika Niescier, winner of the Albert-Mangelsdorff-Prize, opens without preamble with “Kundry” before the piece is directed into more introverted realms after five minutes. Overall, however, a highly expressive dynamic of collective, processual improvisation, committed to free jazz of the sixties, dominates.
Close Up” (Cleanfeed), for which the Portuguese singer Sara Serpa engaged the German Ingrid Laubrock and the US cellist Erik Friedlander, provides a real contrast. Laubrock could have played differently, but she is only allowed to breath into her tenor or soprano saxophone in a very controlled manner, just as Serpa does not permit herself much text or emotion on this brittle reductionist album, which sounds as if it was designed on graph paper.
Klaus Nüchtern – FALTER vol 19/18, 05/2018
(translated from the original German text – Falter is an Austrian arts & current affairs magazine)
A jazz album full of exciting moments that knows how to entertain in style: The saxophonist EDITH LETTNER once again shows herself in impressive form on the new album “Taking off” (artdialouge) from her band FREEMOTION.
Edith Lettner is known to be a musician whose stylistic field of activity often doesn’t fit neatly into a narrow category. Born in Linz, the saxophonist and composer is known for not being limited by the classical jazz concept and actively seeks a connection to other forms and traditions of music in all her various projects. Sometimes it is the sound world of African music in which she immerses herself, then again she links her sound with that of the Middle East. Improvisation is by no means unknown territory for her either.
In this sense, their new album stands out as a colourful and passionate mix of styles from all kinds of different genres. Together with her equally talented, co-composing colleagues Gerhard Franz Buchegger (piano), Gerhard Graml (bass) and Stephan Brodsky (drums) Edith Lettner celebrates musical independence in all its facets. The jazz that the quartet performs proves to be a successful arc from the classical to the modern approach with many side trips into various other musical landscapes.
Especially impressive is the light-footedness with which Edith Lettner and her band play through their tunes; the music of this quartet has a wonderfully easy touch which avoids weighty trappings in these quite challenging compositions, and this provides for wide accessibility. The numbers really flow, lively, cheerful and smooth passages alternate in a playful way with solid, calm and sensitive ones. Straightforward parts meet rhythmically more complex ones; melodic and experimental forms weave into multi-layered musical strands, all of which evoke strong moods and a compelling allure.
The music with which Edith Lettner and her band Freemotion appear on “Taking Off” is one that is a lot of fun and knows how to entertain. The album underscores why the alto and soprano saxophonist is one of the most interesting representatives of the local jazz scene. She always succeeds in turning her music into something alive, into something that fascinates you.
Michael Ternai – MICA, 04/2018
(translated from the original German – music austria, also know as MICA, is an organization dedicated to Austrian Music of all genre’s)
Edith Lettner, Edith Lettner’s Freemotion CD-Taking Off
“Edith Lettner’s music is worthy of a smoke-filled room lost to another age. The saxophonist has been casting her vision of creative music throughout Europe and during frequent, regular stays in New York City for years, tangling horns with some of the best improvisers on both continents, always proving herself as utterly unique, thoroughly gifted. Lettner’s strange and beautiful alto and soprano saxophones offer a vibrato that speaks to jazz of the 1920s and early 30s over a language strictly post-1960. Herein, Bechet swirls through Trane and Dolphy, doubles back to Yellow Nunez, Johnny Dodds and Pee Wee Russell, and then cries and barks like Ornette, moody, drifting, swinging, funky odd-time signatures, sometimes all in one piece. The effect is haunting. And Lettner’s use of modal works stream from her roots in Austria, ancient Germanic motifs concurrently lamentative and joyous”.
John Pietaro – The Cultural Worker- New York, 11/2017
EDITH LETTNER’S FREEMOTION
Edith Lettner (as, ss, duduk), Gerhard Franz Buchegger (p, keyb), Gerhard Graml (b), Stephan Brodsky (dr)
Since the first CD of the group Freemotion, founded by Edith Lettner in 2007, moving offroad, (at that time still with the pianist Julia Siedl), years of musical development, shaping and expansion have passed, in which she was again and again in New York and successfully work with well-known musicians, e.g. Warren Smith, Leopold F. Fleming, Donald Smith, Alex Blake and many more. She also studied African music in depth. Today Edith Lettner has matured into one of the most profound and distinguished of her profession. The musical concept of her and her group, unlike conventional straight-ahead-jazz, consists clearly and expressively in the freedom of the compositions. An important starting point is a composition by Lettner or one of band members, in which the numerous rhythms and groove changes are defined. These pieces are improvised on. Besides intellect, emotion and warmth are important, in contrast to modern traditional jazz, which is essentially cool. It is therefore a matter of joint creativity with dynamics and complexity of the compositions, whereby the individual instruments may appear quite autonomous and independent of each other with changing guides. In the end, however, this results in a universal union. All these are qualities of the group unit Freemotion, whose improvised narratives appear as if they were completely notated music.
(translated from the original German – FreiStil is an Austrian magazine focusing on avant-garde & free jazz music)
“’Our jazz compositions are influenced by a pretty eclectic range of music.’
And so it is with moods and textures that vary from swing to African tinged melodies, Africa being a place Lettner has spent much time in.The composer duties are shared with Lettner who contributed5 compositions:Alert, Lost in the Hard Head Area, Passage, Q- train andTreibholz (“Driftwood”). There are 3 by Graml:Blue `N`Purple, Doktor GuptaandLAXand 2 by Buchegger:Schwanberg Blues and Who´s That From?As Lettner states “I invited the other members to bring insome of their own compositions.”
The CD has an appropriate title: Taking Off. And that’s exactly what this trio 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 willpon the other players, giving them equal time to solo.
The music is compact and right there. Filled with so many moods and colors. Comping, swinging, juxtaposing ideas, sounds, feelings. Music you can dance to or shift uneasily about while trying to figure out what groove the artists are in.
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 – not crushed yet residing somewhere inside the gravitational pull while hovering just above the atmosphere. Clarity and density. Melody versus the underlying, at times non-linearity of what is the logical, oft times omitted foundation of music. 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.
if you find yourself Lost in the Hard Head Area,
take the Passage that theQ-trainleads you to
andjust don’t drift about like Driftwood
the sky isBlue `N`Purpletoday
so don’t be LAX
Doktor Gupta just might lead you
to where the Schwanberg Bluesare
and Who´s That From?
steve dalachinsky – Berlin September 2017 (music reviewer, poet and man-about town in the New York jazz and contemporary music scene)
“Beyond her obvious virtuosity, talent, and technical skills, there is that intangible grail sought by all musicians – that ‘certain something’ – and Lettner has it, and she has it in spades”.
F. O’Niel – Vienna 2017 – freelance journalist & reviewer English language press in Europe