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February 28, 2018

To: Listings/Critics/Features
From: Jazz Promo Services


click on the album cover to sample the music


The first part of the evening will celebrate the release of TAKING OFF, the new album from Edith Lettner's Freemotion. This is complex, enchanting music, each tune unlike the rest in emotional color and intensity, yet unmistakably bound together by some magical, musical braiding. It is music that would challenge any musician yet remains readily accessible and supremely enjoyable for music fans of all stripes.
     Edith Lettner- alto & soprano saxophone, duduk 
     Gerhard Franz Buchegger- piano
     Gerhard Graml- bass
     Stephan Brodsky- drums


A change-up happens in the second set as jazz greats Warren Smith, Leopoldo F. Fleming and Donald Smith join with Edith and Gerhard Graml in the aptly named band Delight, something it is guaranteed to do. All are seasoned musicians who know how to make great music and make their music great. Whether performing a  standard or a newly composed tune, they launch themselves into the groove, stay there and bring the audience all the way in with them. 
     Donald Smith- piano, vocals
     Edith Lettner- alto & soprano saxophone
     Gerhard Graml- bass
     Leopoldo F. Fleming- percussion
     Warren Smith- drums, vibraphone


alto & soprano saxophone & duduck

Edith Lettner is a seasoned, respected 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 Alex Blake, Leopoldo F. Fleming, Warren Smith, Steve Dalachinsky, Jed Distler, Yacouba Sissokho, Kim Clarke, Mandingo Ambassadors,  Ras Moshe Burnett, John Pietaro, Matt Lavelle among 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 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, will be 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.)
Edith has traveled widely to play her music and learn from others. Born in Linz, Austria in 1964, at 17 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 Salt Spring Island in western Canada to the list. When not traveling to gigs in other locations, she divides her time between these three ‘homes’.


Buchegger studied classical and jazz piano at various conservatories and schools in Europe, completing a master class with Barry Harris. His focus, during his formal training, was on free improvisation and ‘new’ music. But like so many gifted musicians, he was, and still is, constantly on the lookout for new musical challenges. And he always manages to find them in a dizzying array of projects, in ever varied musical genres, such as LiLa, an Indian Jazz Project, Family Kuti Band, Franz Hautzinger, and the annual Austrian festival, “Jam In,” which he initiated. Never hesitant to travel to further his interests and hone his craft, he resided for a time in the worlds of Flamenco, Brazilian, and Indian music. Each equipped him with a new kit, opened new perceptions, and contributed to his fluid, shifting style, his keen ear and his eye-blink quick responses when collaborating and improvising. His home turf includes traditional jazz, world music and fusions of both, but he spends much time off the property, drawn to contemporary-concept improvisation and gigs with artists working in other mediums, such as dance, poetry and visual art. Gerhard has been with Freemotion since 2016 and is the newest and youngest member of the band. But you would never know it; the fit was immediate, a fact that is apparent to anyone who attends a Freemotion gig, or listens to the band’s new album Taking Off. (Two tracks on the album are Buchegger’s compositions.)


Graml, born in 1963, studied at the Conservatory of Music in Vienna, graduating in 1992 with a degree in Jazz Bass and Music Education. Since then his considerable talent and style as a musician, and composer, has taken him into ever broadening musical landscapes. He is one of the original Freemotion members, having been with the band since its conception in 2005. He maintains a busy schedule as the bassist for Stephan Brodsky’s band phone 3 phone among many others, while at the same time composing and arranging for his own projects. He has written film scores, contributed to several CD-productions, and various TV and radio specials. Graml, who resides in Washington DC, travels widely, touring and performing in Europe, Nothern Africa and Asia. He has recorded and played with such diverse artists, as beat poet Ruth Weiss, the contemporary music ensemble, “die reihe” jazz artists Don Preston, Gary Wittner, Edith Lettner, Herb Pomeroy, Brad Terry, Tom Snow & many others. Gerhard’s musical style ranges through Jazz, Fusion, Funk and World Music. He also writes and edits for various music magazines & blogs and for a time hosted a jazz-themed radio program for the Austrian Broadcasting Network ORF. Clearly, Gerhard Graml is a man who wears many different hats as a music professional, but central to it all – what sustains and informs him – is this solitary fact; Gerhard Graml is a damn fine bass player of the highest caliber. (Three tracks on the TAKING OFF album are Graml's compositions.)


Stephan Brodsky is a dyed-in-the-wool jazz man, and a self-proclaimed autodidact when it comes to developing his musical talent. As a teenager, he spent every spare minute out of school listening to jazz and learning from it, a habit he has carried with him through the years. His approach has served him well; Stephan’s talent & musicality range over the multifaceted jazz idiom right up to its edges and beyond. Big band, straight-ahead, cultural & ethnic fusions, contemporary styles, improvised & free jazz. As he continues to master his craft as a percussionist, he began to feel the absence of harmony in his music, so he learned to play Marimba; in 1993 he formed his band, phone 3 phone, centered around this instrument and his own compositions, as well as those of other band members. The band has recorded and produced 4 albums to date (2018). Stephan has toured extensively and played in clubs and festivals throughout Europe and in Morocco. He has played with Leo Wright, Igal Foni, Alan Praskin, Karl Ratzer, Samy Price, Uli Scherer, Ruth Weiss, Leopoldo F. Fleming, Luis Ribero, Vero La Reine, Cheikh Ndao. He has been the drummer in Edith Lettner’s Freemotion band from the beginning. If there are any questions about the efficacy of his self-directed approach to learning and developing his musical chops, they will be answered in full after listening to Freemotion’s new album of contemporary jazz, TAKING OFF. This is complex, enchanting music, each track different from the others in emotional colors and intensity, yet unmistakably bound together into a whole by some magical, musical braiding; it is music that would challenge any musician, and Stephan Brodsky nails it.

About the Musicians of Delight

DONALD SMITH – piano, vocals  

The son of a member of the internationally known Harmonizing Four, the oldest living professional gospel group in the US, Donald attended school in Richmond, Virginia, and upon graduation attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in music. While he was a member, the campus jazz band won three national collegiate awards as the outstanding jazz band in the country. Individually, Donald won the national collegiate award for best male vocalist for two consecutive years.
In the Champaign-Urbana community Donald performed as organist and flautist with the renowned Tony Zamora Territorial Band. This group was well known in the Tri-State area, (Illinois, Indiana and Iowa), not only for their music, but also for the number of their musicians going on to become teachers and performers of American Classical Music worldwide.

As a pianist and vocalist, Donald has performed and recorded with many nationally and internationally known artists including: Art Blakey, Rashaan Roland Kirk, Benny Carter, Archie Shepp, Dizzy Gillespie, Jackie McLean, Leon Thomas, Pharoah Sanders, Oliver Lake, Von and Chico Freeman and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band. He was the lead vocalist and flautist with his brother, Lonnie Liston Smith, for five years. Donald toured and recorded together with Gregory Porter and Mansur Scott in Europe, as one of the three headliners of Paul Zauner's legendary Great Voices of Harlem.

Donald was a favorite at the famous St. Nick's Pub, appearing there regularly, until its untimely demise. A resident of Harlem, he continues to perform and remains active on the New York jazz scene. 


percussionist, composer, arranger, lyricist

Born in 1939, Leopoldo spent his childhood in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, moving to New York in 1951. Inspired by his Latin-Afro-Indian roots, his decades on the New York jazz scene, and by his many years of world-wide touring, Leopoldo F. Fleming has cultivated both a rich and multicolored musical palette, and the virtuosity to use it to the fullest; a rare combination, quickly recognized by some of the biggest names in music.
He has played, recorded, toured with a cornucopia of great artists, such as Nina Simone, (for 31 years off and on), Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, Monica Zetterlund,  Eartha Kitt, Randy Weston, Sonny Stitt, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Leon Thomas, Kenny Barron, Bob Cunningham, Queen Ester Marrow, Horace Parlan, The World Bass Violin Ensemble, Beaver Harris, Novella Nelson, Lonnie Liston Smith, Symphony of the New World, and many more; the list reads like a Who’s Who of the NY jazz scene. The list extends to prominent musicians in Europe as well with the likes of Christian Gonsior, Jim Pepper, Edith Lettner, Leo Wright, and Karl Ratzer, among others.
Never one to be daunted by the rigors of traveling, he collaborated with top musicians from many different countries as he toured throughout, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Leopoldo now lives in New Jersey, not far from the Metro NY area. He continues to play with his band, Afro Caribbean Jazz Ensemble, to tour and remain active in NYC's vibrant jazz scene.

WARREN SMITH – percussion

Smith was born May 14, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois, to a musical family. His father played saxophone and clarinet with Noble Sissle and Jimmie Noone, and his mother was a harpist and pianist. At the age of four Smith studied clarinet with his father. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1957, then received a master's degree in percussion from the Manhattan School of Music in 1958.

One of his earliest major recording dates was with Miles Davis as a vibraphonist in 1957. He found work in Broadway pit bands in 1958, and also played with Gil Evans that year. In 1961 he co-founded the Composers Workshop Ensemble. In the 1960s & 1970s Smith accompanied Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Lloyd Price, and Nat King Cole, Sam Rivers,  Janis Joplin, King Curtis and Tony Williams. He was also a founding member of Max Roach's percussion ensemble, M'Boom.

In the 1970s and 1980s Smith had a loft called Studio WIS that acted as a performing and recording space for many young New York jazz musicians, such as Wadada Leo Smith and Oliver Lake. Through the 1970s Smith played with Andrew White, Julius Hemphill, Muhal Richard Abrams, Nancy Wilson, Quincy Jones, Count Basie, and Carmen McRae. Other credits include extensive work with rock and pop musicians and time spent with Anthony Braxton, Charles Mingus, Henry Threadgill, Van Morrison, and Joe Zawinul. He continued to work on Broadway into the 1990s, and has performed with a number of classical ensembles.
Smith taught in the New York City public school system, at Third Street Settlement,  Adelphi University and at SUNY-Old Westbury.

Abby London-Crawford proudly presents an evening with two jazz ensembles, Edith Lettner's Freemotion  and Delight, in association with the Sanctuary Arts Initiative of Metro Baptist Church.Ms. London-Crawford, an officer of the Hell’s Kitchen Cultural Center, Inc. helped produced its annual “Rhythm in the Kitchen” Music Festival in the same neighborhood for over 10 years. Now, as an independent producer, she has produced concerts at Metro Baptist: in October, 2016 with TK Blue and Zaccai Curtis; Dick Griffin and Michael Wimberly; Elektra Kurtis and Ensemble Elektra with Reggie Nicholson, Curtis Stewart, and Kenny Davis.

In June, 2017 she co-produced with composer/trombonist Steve Swell’s “Music for Six Musicians: Hommage to Oliver Messaien” recorded live at Metro for Silkheart Records with Steve Swell, Jason Kao Hwang, Tomas Ulrich, Jim Pugliese, Rob Brown, and Robert Boston. The CD was released in October 2017.

On February 16, 2018 Ms. London-Crawford produced The Garifuna Jazz Ensemble at Metro Baptist Church featuring Lucy Blanco, Mario E. Sprouse, Julian Meyers, Andy Ordonez, Gary "Wicked" Fritz, Hilliard Greene, Luisa Bastidas, Mariano Martinez, and Maryam Abdul-Qawiyy.

Abby London-Crawford helped produce two documentaries on musicians: “Femmes de Jazz,” directed by Gilles Corre, filmed in NYC for European Television, which premiered at the Woodstock Film Festival September, 2001; and “Night Bird Song, The Incandescent Life of Thomas Chapin,” directed by Stephanie J. Castillo in 2016. The DVD of that film will be released March 20, 2018.


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