Mon Feb. 5, 2024

Edith Lettner 'Life Music' (A/USA/MAR/BF/SEN/I)

Edith Lettner: alto, soprano saxophone, duduk
Dafna Naphtali: voice, electronics, live sound processing
Karim Chajry: voice
Mamadou Diabaté: balafon
Ibou Ba, Assane Fall: african percussion
Heribert 'Hepi' Kohlich: piano
Beate Reiermann: guitar
Gerhard Graml: bass
Stephan Brodsky: drums
Alessandro Vicard: conducting, bass

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Concert on the occasion of Edith Lettner's sixtieth birthday
„When it comes to incorporating various ethno-musics - particularly those culled from African and Middle Eastern diasporas, respectivly – then recontextualizing them through the lens of modern jazz and asserting a definitive voice, Edith Lettner has a few peers. The Austrian alto and soprano saxophonist accomplishes the lofty artistic pursuit with graceful ingenuity….” (John Murph, DownBeat Magazine, July 2018)
Those who know Edith Lettner know she is an explorer in every sense of the word. Throughout her musical career she has passionately explored an incredible array of diverse musical styles; this has repeatedly seen her embark on solo journeys to places and cultures often far from her native Austria. Learning by doing has often been her chosen way. “I love to get into the middle of situations and learn from there, getting a sense of the people and the cultural currents that underlie different musical styles. It’s a wonderful way to live and learn and connect.”
While acknowledging Lettner’s well-known love affair with world music, contemporary jazz and bebop is where this musician’s heart and soul ultimately reside. Her unique sound and virtuosity on the sax, along with her many compelling compositions derive from her ability to have it both ways, where the music of the world and the world of jazz music magically and seamlessly flow together into enchanting, irresistible new forms.
In preparing for her 60th birthday concert at Porgy & Bess, Edith has to wear many hats – musician, composer, arranger, curator, bandleader and more. As an example of her approach, a peek at her professional milieu reveals much about her choice of musicians she has asked to join her on stage.
She jumped into the jazz scenes in Harlem and Vienna, the Communities for Improvised Music in New York, Vienna, and Sicily, the Communities of West African musicians in Vienna, Senegal and New York. And as if this isn’t enough (and with Lettner it rarely is) she is always collaborating with Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian and North African musicians, finding inspiration in all.
An embarrassment of riches that demanded making some very hard calls. Edith has always possessed a fierce loyalty toward the musicians she performs with, many counting among her friends. To choose some, meant not choosing many more.
Accordingly, she will be joined on stage by colleagues, most of whom she has collaborated with over many years, and who have stood out as touchstones for her along the way.
On this special evening she brings together the electronic musician and singer Dafna Naphtali from New York, her Austrian jazz quartet FREEMOTION, the guitarist Beate Reiermann, who founded the project TRAVEL DIARIES with her many years ago, and the fantastic balafon player Mamadou Diabaté from Burkina Faso, accompanied by two percussionists from Senegal.
Edith will present a selection of her compositions, freely improvised passages, the premier of two newly composed suites, and a sprinkle or two of whimsy, with which to span the arc of her talents and passions and the music she has lived.
The two suites "The Atlantic" and "The Mediterranean", commemorate the crossings of two oceans, each symbolizing two opposing realities; endless human suffering and injustice, and the opening up of unimagined cultural possibilities. (J. F. O’Niell, 2023)