Jazz CD Review: PORT SAÏD STREET (Francis Coletta / Jonas Tauber)

by Tony Frankel on December 22, 2013



I met Swiss bassist Jonas Tauber after a concert recently and he sent me a copy of his 2011 CD Port Saïd Street, which is why this review arrives two years after its release. This 10-track set of duets with guitarist Francis Colleta has Mr. Tauber returning to his original instrument, the cello, and the two extraordinarily accomplished players explore modern string jazz in a warm and breezy ode to Marseilles, France’s largest city on the Mediterranean coast and also its largest commercial port.

Whatever seaside ambiance inspired the album—a lively port, quaint streets, a languid afternoon—the sensuous strains and jazzy elements also had me imagining an Oregon coffeehouse in the rain while sipping latte, or strolling Chicago’s bohemian Milwaukee Avenue. The sound of the cello certainly conjures up the haunting vastness of the ocean, and the guitar is the one instrument you are most likely to see at a beach, but I imagined any locale that is both mellow and invigorating.

As such, I found myself enjoying this intimate session every morning day after day. The astounding communication between the players is seamless and chic, and their coloring is both profound and bright. Tauber’s cello is plucked and bowed much like an upright bass, but he gets so much more from his instrument: In the standard “Body and Soul,” he achieves a sweet twang after an impeccably smooth segue from a jazz violin sound and then to an achingly tender bowing of the melody. Coletta plays an electro acoustic guitar, which creates a magnetic sound that never overwhelms; check out how he playfully moves from surreptitious to bouncy in Ellington’s “Caravan.”

Six of the tunes are Coletta originals, and it’s surprising how melodious and immediately accessible they are, whether it’s the jazz waltz-flavored “La Calanque,” the slow samba of “Misty Cat,” or the yearning movement of the titular track. “Vasilé” gently switches from its sweet and melancholic refrain into a plucking showcase, and it shows off their congenial give-and-take.

This is my favorite type of CD: It’s perfect for a jaunt in the car, as background music at a dinner party, or just a great way to greet the day. Whatever the mood of each tune—affecting, beautiful, joyful—this musical journey is a transportive and mesmerizing instigator of reflection and memory.

Port Saïd Street
Francis Coletta / Jonas Tauber
Origin Records, 2011
10 Tracks / 59 minutes

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