Baboulaye Sissoko- kora, vocals
Edith Lettner- alto & soprano saxophone
Julia Siedl- piano, keyboards
Cheikh Ndao- bass
Mame Birane Mboup- percussion
Ibou Ba- percussion
Robert Castelli- drums
Mixing jazz and African music is an irresistible challenge, one deeply rooted in history, but surprisingly tricky to handle. Edith Lettner and African Jazz Spirit have managed a beautifully balanced meeting of genres. Signature flourishes from Baboulaye Sissoko’s ancient kora (African harp) meld seamlessly with Julia Siedl’s jazz piano riffs. Lettner’s saxophone converses easily with Sissoko’s kora flights and also his distinctly Senegalese vocals—the timeless voice of the griot. Bassist and project co-founder Cheikh Ndao holds down supple and solid grooves throughout. The integration of rhythms is also excellent in these performances, as jazz waltz morphs into West African 6/8 time, animated by crackerjack Senegalese percussion and spot-on trap drumming by Robert Castelli. Lettner’s own compositions reveal impressive intimacy with West African rhythmic and melodic sensibilities. Trust Your Way is both a reconnection of long-ago musical DNA, and a brave step into the future.
Banning Eyre (USA), Senior Editor for afropop.org
Edith Lettner is a saxophone player and composer based in Vienna/ Austria. She plays world music, jazz and improvised music worldwide in many groups and with her own projects. She also plays the Armenian reed instrument duduk. Her compositions have been recorded on several CDs and she has composed music for theater and film.
Edith Lettner has collaborated with numerous African musicians mainly in Senegal, Austria and New York for more than 15 years. In 2010 she founded the group African Jazz Spirit in Dakar Senegal to play her own compositions and the compositions of bassist Cheikh Ndao. She soon invited the Austrian jazz pianist Julia Siedl and the New Yorker drummer Robert Castelli to join the group.The project is a creative “work in progress“ connecting musicians based in Africa and Europe. African Jazz Spirit melds diverse African rhythms with elements of jazz as well as traditional and contemporary African music, creating grooves and beats that get people up and dancing. Baboulaye Sissoko´s expressive singing and Edith Lettner´s soulful and eloquent saxophone solos are floating on top.
Bass player Cheikh Ndao takes you right into feeling the rich music scene in Dakar. He is also an arranger and conducts the Mbalax orchestra of the Senegalese singer Thione Seck. Ndao loves and plays jazz as well. Outstanding and innovative Kora player and singer Baboulaye Sissoko descends from an ancient and famous Griot family, a more than worthy continuer of a proud tradition. He has toured the world with André Heller´s show “Afrika! Afrika!“. The Senegalese percussionists Ibou Ba and Mame Birane Mboup and the New Yorker drummer Robert Castelli form a perfectly interacting rhythm machine. Austrian jazz pianist Julia Siedl deft adaptations of jazz riffs to the african kora patterns and her jazz solos add another colorful dimension to the music.