Coletta returns to his roots

Francis Coletta has been a professional guitarist since the age of 19 swissinfo.ch

Francis Coletta, a professional jazz guitarist who's played with some of the greatest names in the business, has released a new album, "Route 2 Roots".

This content was published on March 18, 2002 - 07:51

The live recording, made in a studio near Fribourg, revisits famous jazz standards such as Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" or Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight".

Coletta, who has been living in Switzerland for two decades, says he worked a lot on the structure of the songs, but left ample room for improvisation - an important feature of jazz.

"I recorded the album on my own, and kept things as simple as possible," said Coletta. "I played live and sometimes sang along, so that I'll feel at ease if I ever have to play in front of an audience."

Playing with the best

Coletta has played for some of the greatest names in music, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Phil Collins and Niels Orsted-Pedersen. He was a regular musician at Monte Carlo's Sporting Club, where a big band accompanies new stars every week.

"It was a fantastic experience," Coletta explained. "I played with artists such as Lisa Minelli, Charles Aznavour and Frank Sinatra, just to name a few."

Not having had a lot of glory does not bother Coletta, because he views himself more as musician-labourer.

"I'm part of a team," said Coletta. "When I toured with the late Michel Berger, although I was his guitarist, people really came to see the artist."

Coletta calls his recordings "products". His work often remains anonymous, and he doesn't always know how, or in what context his music will be used.

"Musicians are simply paid a lump sum for their performance, while royalties go to the composer or the producer."

The French guitarist says he is now looking for some personal recognition. He's started focusing on his personal development and on his own compositions, with the hope that some day, he might reach star status.

A family of musicians

Coletta, whose father was a violin player at the opera in Marseille, was born in 1957 in the French port.

"I learned about music through eavesdropping, but as I wasn't very hard working, and relied too much on my ear for music, my father sent me to a colleague for lessons."

"Then I went to the Conservatory in Marseille, and later to the National Conservatory in Aix-en-Provence to learn the classical guitar."

Despite his classical schooling, Coletta showed an early interest in many other types of music, including jazz and its derivatives, such as blues, R&B, latino, funk and soul. After finishing his studies in Aix-en-Provence, he began his career with a light music band.

He now teaches at the Swiss Jazz School in Bern, at the Conservatory in Fribourg, and at Basel's Music Academy.

By Jeff Nottage

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