John Murph reviews TAKING OFF for DownBeat Magazine
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 play ing 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.
-John Murph – Downbeat Magazine, July 2018
Steve Dalachinsky reviews TAKING OFF
Saxophonist/ reed player Edith Letttner (alto, soprano saxophones and duduk) states the following about her latest Freemotion project with Gerhard Graml (upright and E-bass), Gerhard Franz Buchegger (piano and keyboards) and Stephan Brodsky (drums).
“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 contributed 5 compositions: Alert, Lost in the Hard Head Area, Passage, Q-train and Treibholz (“Driftwood”). There are 3 by Graml: Blue `N`Purple, Doktor Gupta and LAX and 2 by Buchegger: Schwanberg Blues and Who´s That From? As Lettner states “I invited the other members to bring in some 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 will upon 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.
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.
steve dalachinsky – Berlin September 2017
reviewer, award winning poet and man-about town in the New York Jazz and contemporary music scene.
John Pietaro reviews 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 trips to 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.
The album cover of Taking Off is adorned with a cormorant contemplating flight, and the contents within, like Poe’s raven, are watchful, learned, meditative, melodic and tossed stoically amidst instrumental verse, at once heralding, repetitive and compelling.
John Pietaro – New York 2017
writer, journalist, and creator/wordsmith of The Culture Worker
From J.F.O’Niel’s review of TAKING OFF
“ . . .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. “
J.F. O’Niel – Vienna 2017
freelance journalist and reviewer for English language press in Europe
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