Birthday Wish from Buddy’s Knife Newsletter

Happy Birthday, Warren Smith!

Multi-instrumentalist Warren Smith’s 80th birthday is on 13th May and we, at buddy’s knife jazzedition, celebrate his lifetime of artistic achievement.

Warren was born in Chicago into a family of performing musicians. He would become an inspiring artist as well as a compassionate teacher. Receiving his undergraduate degree in music education from the University of Illinois in 1957, he then earned his Master’s degree in percussion (1958) at the Manhattan School of Music.

By age 27 he’d already worked with the likes of Miles Davis and Gil Evans but his solid musical foundation prepared him for much more. A dedicated community music educator, Smith taught in New York City public schools from 1958 to 1968 and at the Third Street Settlement between 1960 and 1967. In the early 60’s he co-founded the Composers Workshop Ensemble. Smith’s association with and recognition by Max Roach and Makanda Ken McIntyre led to pivotal points in his career. In 1970 Max Roach invited him to join his ensemble M’Boom and in 1971 Makanda Ken McIntyre engaged him to teach performing arts at SUNY, Old Westbury
in 1971.
Warren’s involvement in academia, his performing with the most cutting edge artists on the scene, enabled him to open and operate one of the first and longest-running jazz lofts in NYC, called Studio WIS. It was here, and at other lofts (Sam and Bea Rivers’ Studio Rivbea, Joe Lee Wilson’s Ladies Fort, and Rashid Ali’s Ali’s Alley) that young upcoming improvising musicians like Rashid Sinan, William Parker, and Phillip Wilson, were inspired to perform and make excellent recordings outside of the commercial jazz scene. A great part of Warren’s legacy will be laced into the success of so many musicians who’ve been inspired by him. Mr. Smith has selflessly taken on the responsibility of preserving and dignifying the essence of jazz improvisation.
Warren’s ability to express his views on one of American society’s dilemmas, artistically, becomes crystal clear with his poem Tel-Lie-Vis-Ion in silent solos – improvisers speak. His outspokenness, clever depiction of mass media, and cadence makes the work both relevant and accessible. A very short excerpt from Tel-Lie-Vis-Ion, where Warren poetically gives hope that the madness of war may have run its course:
…from coast to coast, from north to south
folks are shouting their feelings against it…

Join us in wishing him a wonder-filled 80th birthday!

Happy Birthday, Warren!

buddy’s knife jazzedition
Teutoburger Straße 17
50678 Cologne

Episodes Video

Y’All of New York presents 10th Annual Friend of the Family Awards Concert, honoring Warren I. Smith. percussionist, composer, bandleader and featuring James “Jabbo” Ware with the Me We & Them Orchestra at Brooklyn’s Roulette.

“Episodes” by Warren Smith, narration by James “Jabbo” Ware,
slide presentation by Stephanie Walden and “This Is Your Last Move” by James “Jabbo” Ware are performed.

Y’ALL of New York, Inc. mission is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the composition, development, promotion and preservation of creative music. The organization sponsors educational classes and forms, produces concerts and promotes the works of composers of creative music.

Y’ALL of New York is honoring the great percussionist, composer, bandleader and activist of self-sufficiency in the musical community, Warren I. Smith. We are celebrating his contribution as founder and director of Studio WIS, his participation in the ME WE and THEM Orchestra, and role-model citizenship throughout his career of professionalism across all genres of music in New York City and internationally.

Warren Smith has had one of the most varied careers of any improvising drummer, working with artists as diverse as Sam Rivers, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Bill Cole and Harry Partch. Though originally trained in modern classical percussion, jazz and improvised music became paramount after moving to New York in the late ’50s. He was a charter member of Max Roach’s important percussion ensemble, M’Boom. Warren opened (as founder and director) one of the first and longest-running performance lofts, Studio WIS, in 1967.

If you would like to make a donation to Y’All, you can earmark a donation for one of three areas: Concerts, The Mentoring Musicians Program, or general needs. Visit
for information and go to the “support us” page to make a donation. If you prefer, mail your donation to: YAII of New York, Inc., 101 West 23rd Street, Suite2449, New York, NY, 10011.


warren smith (8)

80 Years of WIS-dom

To celebrate eight decades of professional and cultural change, percussionist Warren Smith is sharing his WIS-dom through a series of imaginative NYC concerts showcasing, his brand of music experienced through all senses, presented by Warren himself and Studio WIS.

WIS is a renowned composer, conductor, educator, music activist and family man. His extensive discography spans all genres.

Warren Smith “…might be the only man alive who has played with Nat Cole, and Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand, Miles Davis and Harry Partch.”

The debut performance of this concert series is Sunday, May 18th at 7pm at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Harlem. Cover charge for the event is $20.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

700 W 125th St New York, NY

(212) 694‐1777

Review of Musical Blessing by Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre

“Nothing to say except what’s going on being a professional musician. Starvation box. You don’t get nothing. We’re fighting to stay alive.”

The sobering sentiments above are the sole artist’s notes for tenorist Kalaparush McIntyre’s latest CIMP release. The decades since his ascendancy as an AACM leader in the late 1960s haven’t been kind to his financial solvency or physical fitness with street corner busking serving as a principal means of both musical expression and income for at the least the past handful. CIMP has stalwartly stood by him through these lean years, releasing a string of projects showcasing his music, peculiarities and all, over the past decade. Those foibles are in full display onMusical Blessing,too, where the occasional reed squeak, ragged entry or eccentric intonation choice doesn’t always sound intentional. An essay of Coltrane’s “Impressions” is delivered at a fractured and halting crawl.

Above all, McIntyre frequently sounds world-weary and more than a bit insular in his improvisations, the frustrations enunciated in his artistic statement bleeding over into the wounded language expressed through his horn. It’s a discouraging state of affairs the good folks at CIMP are well familiar with as the bulk of their now vast catalog of releases documenting some of finest free jazz musicians still resides in a space removed from the awareness of most jazz listeners. This session dates to nearly three and a half years ago, a long time to be collecting dust in the can.

In contrast, McIntyre’s colleagues on the session don’t sound the least bit disheartened by any of these hard realities. Bassist Michael Logan, a regular McIntyre confrere, joins bassist RaDu Ben Judah (a former Sun Ra sideman) in weaving febrile patterns of cross-hatching lines. Both men take the leader’s idiosyncrasies easily in stride and use the pervading looseness to come up with some risky ventures of their own as on the hard-strumming bass relay that opens “Crossing Zone.”

Drummer Warren Smith has experienced some similar ups and downs in his over half-century behind the kit. His ace percussion skills are an asset from the outset and the CIMP standard of naked, no compression recording brings his polyrhythms into bold relief. Referencing McIntyre and Smith’s Chicago roots “Southside Loop” gives the bassists a break and allows the drummer to converse musically and verbally with his old friend. It quickly becomes a beautiful example of one improviser honoring and enhancing the work of another.

McIntyre may not be the player he was in his prime, but like past loft jazz lions-in-winter (Frank Lowe in particular springs to mind) a depth of feeling projects from his singular serpentine phrasing that almost seems enhanced by the situationally-compromised facets of his musical toolbox. It’s especially true on the closing largely-solo rendering of “The Very Thought of You.” Listening through and past the irregularities that litter his phrasing, there’s an artist of obvious integrity and worth still wholly dedicated to putting his personal message out.

[Postscript: Kalaparush passed away on November 9, his financial and professional positioning not much removed from the status quo described in the quote that leads this piece. As a final artistic statement he might have wished for better, but the candor and poignancy suffusing this record still gets the job done.]

Derek Taylor




EDITH LETTNER – alto & soprano saxophone

Yacouba Sissoko is a Master Kora player from the Djely griot tradition. He was born in Mali. His grandfather, Samakoun Tounkara, began teaching Yacouba when he was 12 years old. Yacouba attended the Institut National des ArtsduMaliinBamako.Afterhisgraduation,
he played with artists like Taye and Oumou Sacko, Haja Soumano, Djallou Demba, Ami Koita, Fantani Koure, Kandia Kouyate and l’Ensemble Instrumental du Mali. From 1993 to1998 he was performing all over the world with the Ensemble Koteba, the 45-piece band of Souleymane Koli. He has traveled to almost every nation on the African continent, as well as most of Europe, Canada, the US and Australia. He is in demand as one of the best kora players in the world, playing with jazz, Latin and R & B bands as well as traditional African ceremonies. As leader of his own band Siya, and member of the groups Super Mande Yacouba continues to play and record with many famous musicians, including the groups Source, Tamalalou,Fula Flute and Yacande. Absolutely outstanding is his collaboration with jazz violinist Regina Carter.

Banning Eyre is an author, guitarist, radio producer, and Senior Editor at He has been researching and learning African guitar styles for over 20 years, including a seven-month apprenticeship with Malian guitar master Djelimady Tounkara. Eyre has developed an original composition and performance style that incorporates traditions from Mali, Congo, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and beyond, along with his own background in American fingerstyle guitar. He plays on four Thomas Mapfumo albums and his book on Thomas Mapfumo and the contemporary history of Zimbabwe will come out on Duke University Press in 2015. Eyre also played on a track on Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate’s Kulanjan (Hannibal 1999), which was voted Folk Roots “Album of the Year” in the UK. He performs with the band Timbila, and with various musicians playing African music in New York City.

Edith Lettner has played with numerous African musicians, mainly in Austria, Senegal and New York (e.g. Martino Attangana) for more than 15 years. In Senegal she worked with many great muscians- unknown and famous as well- such as Baboulaye Sissoko Suleymane Faye, Orchestre National du Senegal, Thione Seck and Mansour Seck, best known for his collaboration with lifelong friend Baaba Maal. Edith has played with several kora players from the Griot tradition. 2010 she founded her own project African Jazz Spirit in Dakar/ Senegal, playing her own compositions and the compositions of bassist Cheikh Ndao. 2012 the group recorded it ́s first CD „Trust Your Way“ at the renowned jazz club Porgy & Bess in Vienna.

Dialogues – Warren Smith & Edith Lettner

World renowned percussionist Warren Smith was a mainstay and co-founder of Max Roach‘s M‘Boom ensemble and leader of the Composer‘s Workshop Ensemble, a New York based composition and performance ensemble. Smith is a master of all things percussive, from the vibraphone and marimba, to the drum set, timpani, and gong, among other instruments.

One of his earliest major recording dates was with Miles Davis as a Vibraphonist in 1957. He has worked with many great musicians and singers such as Sam Rivers, Anthony Braxton, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus, Tony Williams, Nina Simon, Aretha Franklyn, Van Morrison, Quincy Jones, Count Basie and Carmen McRae and many others. In the 1970s and 1980s Smith had a loft called Studio Wis which acted as a performing and recording space for many young New York jazz musicians, such as Wadada Leo Smith and Oliver Lake.

Improvised music is a passion of saxophonist and duduk player Edith Lettner. She has played with musicians from all over the world and she thrives on unusual performing situations. She improvises not only with musicians, but with artists of other genres such as dancers, visual artists and poets. Her own paintings and drawings are the results of an improvisational process.

The CD Aanderud/Hecht/Lettner Live In Vienna 2011 is showcasing her improvisational skills; it contains the recording of a performance with the Mexican jazz musicans Mark Aanderud and Hernán Hecht whom Edith met for the first time in her life at this concert.

It is often said that music can transcend all boundaries. While coming from quite diverse backgrounds, with Warren born in USA in 1934 and Edith born in Austria in 1964, the duo’s rapport comes through eloquently in their music. They also welcome guests to perform with them, such as NY based poet Steve Dalachinsky, who will appear with them at the Cornelia Street Café on February 4th 2014.

Edith also looks for opportunities to combine projected visuals of her art work with her live musical improvisations: while the musicians are playing inside the projections their improvisation is influenced by the visual impressions.

Introducing Edith Lettner

“In music, painting and in my daily life improvisation and spontaneity are very important to me. I have got to be on the move, constantly. Over the last couple of years I have reached what I consider to be perfection: I no longer reside, I commute with my travel bag and my instruments… between my studio and in the country, Vienna, New York, Senegal.”


Edith Lettner was born in Linz, Austria, in 1964. In 1983 she made Vienna the centre of her work as a freelance musician and painter. She showed her work in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad and staged painting performances together with jazz musicians. As a saxophonist, she studied with Leo Wright, Manfred Balasch, Herwig Gradischnig and Oscar Noriega in New York. She took classes in jazz theory with Uli Scherer.

Edith Lettner’s interests lie primarily in jazz, free improvisation, African and oriental music. She also plays the Duduk, an Armenian woodwind instrument. She very intuitively brings her unique and distinctive style to the cooperation with numerous bands, both during live performances and CD recordings. In 2005 she founded her own ensemble freemotion (jazz & more) and in 2010 the African Jazz Spirit project in Senegal. To both projects she can contribute her own compositions in very special ways. Edith Lettner has also composed theatre and film music.

Her frequent cooperation with musicians from other cultures and artists from other art genres has made her an incredibly versatile artistic personality with a penchant for activism. Her numerous stays abroad (Senegal, New York, Armenia….) are absolutely essential to Edith Lettner. Her works in music and painting cross-fertilise each other.


Tel: +43 (0) 699 123 60 207