Some Remarkable Facts about Edith Lettner
Composer, Painter, Jazz & World Music Musician
(Alto & Soprano Saxophone & Duduck)
Question: What did the pop musician say to the jazz musician?
Answer: “Take me to the airport.”
A joke that nonetheless describes the financial landscape of almost all jazz musicians who are not a ‘name’.
Here is one remarkable fact about Edith Lettner. She has been a working musician, composer and painter for nearly 30 years and she has never had a ‘day job’. From the beginning she decided that in order to be a professional artist, her income should rely on her paintings and music and not on employment in an unrelated field. Her reasoning was straightforward; “If I had worked at another job, it would have taken too much time away from my art”. Although she labored at a few short-term ‘straight’ jobs that occasionally came her way, she stuck to her self-imposed mandate; she has always made her living from her art.
And yet within the impoverished environment alluded to in the joke, Edith has traveled widely in Europe, North America and Africa (13 times to Sengal, Africa alone) in pursuit of her music and her art. When not journeying to gigs and explorations in other locales, she has divided her time between her two home bases, her native Vienna and New York City where she maintains an ‘impossible schedule’ of performing, rehearsing, jamming, practicing and only taking ‘timeout’ to work on a new series of paintings. Recently she has added a third location to the list, Salt Spring Island, Canada where for a couple of months each year, and free from the stresses of the hectic demands of working musician, she can compose, engage in prolonged rigorous musical practice and deep learning.
How has she managed all of this on a startling small income? Simple, she has gladly done without many of the material things and creature comforts that most of us take for granted, and she rejects any notion of sacrifice in doing so. “I feel privileged, like a princess living exactly the life I want, going where I want to go, free to practice and constantly perfect my music and art”.
Although Edith has established herself as a seasoned, world-class musician and painter, it is this need to “constantly perfect” that keeps her moving and doing. As she so succinctly sums it up “I like to put myself in the middle of things and learn from there”. Even now she has few inhibitions about where she performs or with whom giving free rein to her desire to learn and perfect her art. You are equally as likely to find her busking with a street band in Central Park, jamming at an intimate club in Harlem or performing with her band on a big stage in Vienna, or a Jazz Festival in Serbia.
Taking Off, the newest album of Edith’s band Freemotion, offers one great example of how her methods and intentions have so richly paid off. The North American release of Taking Off occurred at a concert/launch-event in Manhattan on March 3rd, 2018. The concert featured two of Edith’s bands. Freemotion played music from Taking Off during the first set, and a change-up happened in the second set; jazz greats Warren Smith, Leopoldo F. Fleming, and Donald Smith joined Edith and her Freemotion bass player in the aptly named band Delight – an experience it fully delivered to a very appreciative and entusiastic New York audience. The European release concert was held in Vienna on May 16, 2018 at ORF (Austria public radio) RadioKulturhaus in front of an equally enthusiastic full house. The press reviews of Taking Off have been extremely complimentary as you can see for yourself by clicking on link.