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© Neha Agarwal, Lishan Liu  



SATURDAY, DEC 16 2017, 06:00 PM


In the spring of 2016, after playing together spontaneously at one of the Cornelia Street Café's fabled artist salons, Jed Distler and Edith Lettner agreed that joint collaborations would hold a secure place in future projects. Both musicians come from eclectic musical backgrounds and both bring to their performances an immense wealth of experience and musical savvy. Together, their music can range from hyper-energetic to painfully lyrical, from broodingly sad to recklessly happy. Their seasoned virtuosity embodies "the discipline of spontaneity" on display as a finely honed readiness, hair-trigger creativity and near telepathic communication.  

At that same salon, Lettner and Distler discovered a shared love of the music of Austrian composer, Anton Bruckner, and from this a theme for a future collaboration emerged: to play Bruckner's music in their own interpretive and improvisational style. Lettner and Distler are uniquely suited for this particular venture. Their collaborative style of energetic interplay born of two musical traditions is exquisitely matched to the dynamic developments commonly found in the Bruckner's work. Lettner's interpretive expression of the passionate, solemn feelings so common in Bruckner, possesses the intensity, and roughness of a jazz musician, the sound of her saxophone perfectly suited to deliver a wide range of emotional experience on demand. As for Distler's part, he is well known for his virtuosity and his many disparate performances, compositions, and staged events. What unites his giant grab-bag of varied works is a reliance on an underling discipline of form and structure reflective of his more schooled approach. No stranger to jazz, his style of interpretation and expression, like all artists, is rooted in his personal musical history, but his is a history far different from that of Edith Lettner. And it is this difference that makes the difference, as at each encounter it compels them to carve out a common language with which to enter into musical conversations of breathtaking range, beauty, naked delight and understanding  . . . and with Anton Bruckner ever present.


Josef Anton Bruckner was a nineteenth century Austrian composer, whose symphonies were full of rich harmonic interludes and forceful polyphonic elements characteristic of the time. But his work also featured dissonances, wandering harmonies and impromptu, unexpected turns, all radical departures from the conventions and musical sensibilities of his Viennese contemporaries. For this he was the subject of intense derision and scorn. As is the way of such things, old orthodoxies eventually gave way to new, and his later compositions gained supporters and with them the praise and appreciation so long denied him. 


True to their distaste of being cast or characterized, Edith and Jed's program will include a session of free improvisation that ignores anything Bruckner (or not?). In this rarefied realm of the jazz world, they join forces to lead each other through an ungoverned musical terra incognito, an environment in which they thrive due to their uncanny ability to execute quick, coordinated swerves into the unexpected (even for them).  They are exemplars of the genre and promise a performance that makes no promises. Not to be missed.
J. F. O’Niel, Vienna Austria, 2017


Edith Lettner (alto & soprano saxophone, duduk) was born in Linz, Austria in 1964. In 1983 she moved to Vienna which has remained her principle base working as a freelance musician and painter. Edith is a versatile musician and composer with a unique style who plays alto and soprano saxophone and the duduk (an Armenian woodwind instrument). She is known for her facility with world music, particularly Africa’s contribution where she has traveled and worked extensively. But her primary interest and exceptional musicality lies with Jazz and improvisational music. For years she had 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 likeminded Viennese musicians. Their newest CD, Taking Off will be released this November. Since 2011 she has adapted New York as her second musical home, and divides her time between there and Austria.

She has brought her inventive style to her collaborations with countless musicians and bands, not only in Austria and New York, but also in many other locals in Europe, Africa, and North America. The genesis of this Bruckner project began in her childhood home and the family’s often played recordings of the composer's music.

A bio on Jed Distler’s (piano) website opens with “Since moving to New York in 1978, [he] has forged a singular, unusually multi-faceted composing career.”  True yes, but a mother of an understatement.  Reviewing his vast body of work as composer and performer reveals the problem; his virtuosity and interests extend in every direction, classical, jazz, avant-garde and genres yet undefined. A brief description of three of his past projects helps make the point: an autobiography that features a deconstruction of the Sergeant Pepper album; collaborating on the creation of the chamber Opera, Tools; writing and staging a one-off event involving an ensemble of 177 keyboardist and their keyboards. But this too is misleading, as he is equally on home turf as half of a jazz duo in an intimate venue or giving a classical piano recital in a grand hall. Spectacularly prodigious, even a modest effort to generate a representative sampling of his past work soon devolves into a long, fascinating, but ungraspable list.

Cornelia Street Cafe
29 Cornelia Street, NY 10014

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