Face To Face with Paolo Fresu and Luca Devito from Italian jazz label Tǔk Music

Face To Face - Paolo Fresu & Luca Devito of Tuk Label
Photo cover by: Believe
Published Mar 05, 2024
10 min read

Believe's Face to Face interview series moves to Italy for the second time, this time to explore the world of jazz, with renowned trumpeter Paolo Fresu. But it's as creator and artistic director of the Tǔk Music jazz label that he's interviewed, alongside Luca Devito, the label's production coordinator. 

If you're an avid jazz fan, you're most likely familiar with the Italian - and Sardinian above all - trumpeter Paolo Fresu.  Hyperactive on the European jazz scene since the mid-1980s, Paolo Fresu has over 90 records to his credit, including 25 with his own quintet. Artistic director of the Time In Jazz festival in Berchidda, he also tours throughout Europe and beyond for several months each year, and is the founder of the Jazz Seminars in Nuoro (Sardinia), where he has taught for 25 years. 

Almost as a logical continuation of his artistic development and his years of teaching, Paolo Fresu created the Tǔk Music label in 2010 with his colleague and friend Luca Devito, who has been production coordinator from the very beginning. 

With Tǔk, Luca and Paolo wanted to venture off the well-trodden jazz path into more electronic and ethnic sounds, to give young musicians a chance and, above all, to offer out-of-the-ordinary, extremely high-quality content. After 14 years of existence, and over 80 recording projects to their credit, Paolo and Luca have clearly succeeded. 

Paolo Fresu and Luca Devito were invited by Alice Sorrenti, Head of Label & Artist Solutions at Believe Italy, to talk about the Tǔk adventure, but also about the evolution of the jazz universe and audience with the growing use of digital technology, and of course about their upcoming projects. 

Alice Sorrenti: Hello, and greetings! I think the first thing to do is to introduce ourselves to each other, so I'll start because we're in Believe headquarters. I am the Head of L&AS, Label & Artist Solutions, of Believe Italia. We have been operating in the Italian market for many years now and our partners are independent labels and independent artists. 

One of our labels is with us today and therefore, I will let you introduce yourselves as Tǔk. 

Luca Devito: I am Luca Devito, I am the production coordinator of Tǔk. I take care of all the procedures and production stages, from an artist's master to the moment it gets to digital stores. 

Paolo Fresu: I am Paolo Fresu, a musician first. And then, alas…. no, actually very happy to be also a record producer. A big word, in the sense that what I do is to be an artist within our own productions. 

In 2010, we founded a record label called Tǔk Music, primarily dedicated to young people. It also produces my records today. I feel and actually I am at home, so I'm also bringing home my own vision, my artistic thinking. 

Beyond that, I do many other things that are always related to the recording world, for instance, being the Art Director of a festival, and anything concerning the same path, with a particular attention to young people, which is very needed in this historical period. So, this is my role. 

Alice Sorrenti: We are talking about Believe and Tǔk Music, so let's talk about your reality, starting with the concept of being a jazz label, which you probably find to be a limited definition and you may not see it as fully relevant. 

I would be interested to hear what do you think, as part of the world of jazz. With jazz going into the digital era, how did you approach it? How do you work? Where do you think there are limits in this definition for what is your daily work, as a label? 

Luca Devito: Clearly Paolo is known first as a musician, therefore, it is very natural to approach our releases, and put them in the category of “jazz”, which is a category that in some ways is more of a starting point. 

We are not excluding anything,we also do not prevent ourselves to work within the traditional paths of jazz music, but we try to stay in the present. And working on music today also means wanting to bring it to everyone.  

Talking about our approach to the digital world, it is a world that we have always been attracted to since our founding, and we have always been included in, because our relationship with Believe started with the foundation of Tǔk. 

So, Believe has been our only point of reference, and we think we have also grown hand in hand in some ways. The digital world has always attracted us and has always made us feel very close to the historical moment that we are living in. 

Alice Sorrenti: The curation of Spotify’s “Jazz Italy” playlist has been done by you, Paolo, for a long time in the past months (ed: 6 months in 2023). Not only it featured you on the cover with your latest project, but also Francesca Gazza and Marco Bardoscia. This marked the fact that the digitalization path is almost completed. 

We can say that you are the point of reference for this kind of musical genre that you represent, which is not strictly jazz, but a fusion of genres and many other things at the same time; not only for us who have been partners for several years and since the beginning of this experience, but also for the stores. 

How do you experience this? How have you experienced these months of such a close collaboration with a store? It's a new thing for you, in my opinion. 

Paolo Fresu: The goal of a musician, of an artist, and likewise, the goal of a label, is to make music for other people to enjoy. In the jazz world sometimes, we can be a little snooty. In fact, the artist who was successful was pointed out as someone who had sold his soul to the devil. Think of Miles Davis, when he was back after his illness, making music full of electronics, people said: "this is not jazz anymore!". This is absolutely not true.  

I believe that an artist's aspiration, an artist's dream, is not only to produce music, but to make sure that it will be told to someone. If we go to do a concert and there is no audience in the room, then that is a failed show, "raté" as the French would say. The goal of an artist, and consequently also the one of a record label, is to make sure that people will listen to the project, the product. 

The digital world is crucial because it gives a way to our creativity, which is a creative way on one hand but also, a professional and economic way on the other hand.  This common path with Believe has been precious to us, fundamental too. 

Today the projects’ production, both my own ones and those of young people, is based on the digital-related path. It is crucial to be aware of new media, of new ways, of new timings for building creative and music projects which should be functional in the contemporary world, in the present. We try to do that, learning a lot from the time we are now living, because I believe that the role and responsibility of the artist is precisely to live in the present. 

Jazz is definitely a contemporary music because it captures the present. Living in the present time means being aware of the constant and different evolutions in the music world.  

The music fruition has changed, the timings and manners have totally changed. Therefore, we must necessarily relate to that, not just passively, but rather becoming “accomplices” of the creative process and of the productive process. This can then lead us to score “goals”. Scoring a "goal" means in the first place making sure that music is in everyone's homes, or in everyone's phones. "In homes" is an old concept, when we were still had records that we used to play them on the home record player. This is no longer the case today.  

The important thing is that the music is in the ears of people, this is crucial. And thus digital media is the most powerful tool, the most innovative, the most contemporary, to make this happen. 

Alice Sorrenti: Clearly! I think you have skimmed two questions and two themes here, on which I was going to ask you a couple of questions. The first one was about how your work has changed. As you gave us the point of view of the art director and the artist, I’m going to ask Luca. 

How the digital world has changed your daily work. In particular, how your profession has evolved? The second mentioned topic is the one of audiences. Has your audience changed? And how? 

Luca Devito: The workload related to digital has increased a lot. In fact, I think that there may be a kind of mythology according to which the digital music is "quicker” to work on. 

While I believe that it is an extremely complicated, time-consuming work, also made of many steps. In my opinion, besides being the work that occupies most of my time today, it is also the one that requires the most of it. There are many things to do, as there are many details, and, depending on where you want to go, there are even more and more steps. 

For us who are evidently curious people, this is a constant motivator. There are so many doors to open! It is also very inspiring. And I think this strictly connected to the idea of a path that everyone can take. 

Regarding the audience, what a huge question! The other thing concerning the digital marketplace and digital music is that the actual audience that we look at every day is the world. The audience is no longer only the one in the place where we are or where we are going to have a concert. 

Alice Sorrenti: To conclude this talk I would like to ask you about your projects. Are there any gems in the Tǔk catalog that you particularly want to talk us about? And also about future projects,  or about the new projects that we are working on together. 

Paolo Fresu: The label has definitely a very large catalog now. All projects are important to us, they are all the same to us: we are like fathers who look after all their children in the same way as they are growing up. 

Beyond the quality of what we do, which is always the highest quality, both in terms of musical and creative content, we care a lot about the “theme”. Because making a record does not necessarily mean just thinking about the music. Of course, the music is the fundamental thing, but behind the music there is a concept. We like to work with artists who have a concept behind their music, which is not only making good music but making music at the service of a broader purpose.  

Talking about future plans, this year will be particularly rich of very diverse projects, reflecting the style of our label. An album is about to be released right now, by a very talented, smart, sensitive, creative, curious Sardinian musician, with whom we will inaugurate a section of the label. 

When I say section, it is not a less important than the main label, we just have fun! It is a "divertissement" in the French style, to “create” within Tǔk, many different sections with specific purposes: Tǔk Live, Tǔk Voice, Tǔk Art... Etno Tǔk is precisely the one being created right now with Pierpaolo Vacca’s release, he’s a Sardinian accordion player whose music stands between traditional folk dancing and the most driven electronic music. 

Additionally, we will produce several projects this year. In particular a project of mine that I care very much about because it is an anniversary project. 

In 2024, my historic quintet, which was formed in 1984, will be 40 years old, and it’s still with the same five musicians. It’s perhaps one of the longest running quintet in European jazz. This year will also mark the 22-year anniversary of my duo with Philadelphia pianist Uri Caine, and the 20 years anniversary with the Devil Quartet.   

So, we are going to release a triple CD, and a triple vinyl that will contain other tracks than the triple CD. These are three totally improvised records. This is the bet we wanted to win, to show that time can somehow reinforce a creative concept. We went to the studio, with these three projects, without bringing a single sheet music and without saying a word. We started playing and we created them.  

We named it "Legacy", and it is a sort of “life manifesto”, so to speak. Something linked to the past, to the present and also to the future. 

Alice Sorrenti: We look forward to these projects and we'll see you with upcoming events. Thank you so much for being with us! 


Discover Tǔk's latest releases on your favorite platforms: Nerovivo by Evita Polidoro and Travessu by Pierpaolo Vacca. 

You can also check Tǔk Music website for all their latest news and catalog, or follow Tǔk on Instagram and Facebook.