Label Spotlight

For Tune
By Ken Waxman

Like many projects related to improvised music, the origin of Warsaw’s FOR TUNE (Publishing House) recordings began with three jazz fans talking. Jarek Polit, vice-president of the label and one of its three full-time staffers, had been managing a record store for decades, and he was enthusiastically telling two of his regular customers about the 11-piece Power of the Horns (POH) band which hadn’t yet recorded. Similarly enthusiastic, the other two joined forces with him to present POH in a small local cub. “It was like hitting the bull’s eye,” recalls Polit. “So we thought we might create a phonographic company to implement our own ideas, and record some interesting though not commercially viable projects.” Released as a two-disc CD-DVD package, POH’s Alaman became the first For Tune in 2013. Now the catalogue is heading towards 30 releases with many more to come.

FOR TUNE’s full-time staff is small. Besides Polit, who also works in radio and presents concerts, there’s another vice president Ryszard Wojciul, also a musicologist and journalist; plus Witold Zińczuk, record collector and businessman involved in municipal sanitation, who is label president. “We’ve got plenty of great, excellently trained musicians in Poland,” notes Polit, “but not all have been afforded an opportunity to register their accomplishments. Our ambition is to publish projects that we find the most interesting among various musical genres, bearing the mark of originality and an individual stamp of its creator.” To that end For Tune has moved beyond the avant-garde jazz of its initial releases to encompass other styles, each characterized by a different cover color code. Magenta stands for jazz; green for world music; orange marks contemporary music; blue is for avant pop; and yellow covers hard-to-categorize styles. “New music genres we may offer in the future will be marked with new colors,” Polit says.

Despite its slight change in orientation For Tune remains true to its goal of exposing deserving artists. “Most recordings we made of Polish artists have been their debut albums. It is usually us who approach the players and offer them to register their upcoming projects. There were a few cases when the artists brought us ready-made recordings. At times we suggest a line-up for the next project of an artist with whom we collaborate,” Polit reveals.

Another preference is for the emotion conveyed in live recordings. “We think that concert recordings of improvised music where performers are in direct contact with the audience far outstrip studio recordings,” notes Polit “It’s not uncommon for us to organize a concert of an artist we find interesting in order to record their music. We hire top guns in Poland for the job, so our concert recordings sometimes sound as if they were registered in a studio but have that energy of a live concert. We aren’t very radical about it, though. In our catalogue we have many albums that were registered in a studio, and sometimes we even encourage musicians to make a studio recording.”

Alto saxophonist Maciej Obara, who has so far recorded two For Tune CDs, Komeda and Live at Manggha is a prime example of the label’s philosophy. When his international quartet consisting of pianist Dominik Wania, bassist Ole Morten Vaagan and drummer Gard Nilssen first official concert was playing the music of Krzysztof Komeda at a Łódz jazz festival, “I decided to record it myself and it become one of the first released albums from this label. For Tune is about freedom in music. In my experience they never impose anything on artists. There’s a very friendly atmosphere, a kind of trust and pure idea of arts. It's not only bussines, it’s also a kind of patronage.”

This patrongae means that For Tune finances all releases itself. “Despite the challenging market, though, we want this undertaking to be profitable. It would be unrealistic to expect high profits, but we do hope for gains to exceed our expenditures. That’s why would like it if our listeners purchase our records rather than downloading them illegally from web portals. We certainly place the main emphasis on physical carriers. Graphic design, the choice of the highest quality paper and precision in execution are essential to our publishing work.”

That doesn’t means that For Tune rejects other means of distribution. The first 10 CDs are availablefor download—it’s seeking a new distributor for the remainder—while a program of releasing sessions on vinyl will commence in 2015. What will remain the same however is that not many sessions will join the three – Marcin Masecki’s Scarlatti and the Bester Quartet’s Krakoff are the other two – with associated DVDs. “Video recordings obviously entail higher production costs, which is reflected in the higher price of an album” notes Polit.” Plus not all recorded material is suitable for publication in DVD format because not much is happening on stage.” (Paraphrae)

What the label does plan to do is consistently release more product: three new titkesd every six or seven weeks. Additionally some sessions feature inmternational players as leaders, collaborators or band members. Polish-born, Copenhagen-based trumpeter Tomasz Dąbrowski for instance has already recorded six albums for ther label, three as sideman, Hunger Pangs’ Meet Meat; Magnolia Acoustic Quartet’s Boozer and Pulsarus’ Bee Itch plus

Three under his own name – Steps with Tyshawn Sorey; Vermilion Tree with Andrew Drury and Kris Davis and his own Tom Trio. “For Tune is one of a kind label that supports contemporary or so called avant-garde music, with no interest in commercial or easy success. It’s a label that goes for quality first, no shortcuts with the quality of sound on the record, design, every word has to be just right in the booklet, every CD is like a finished composition. I had full freedom to record, both what and where to record, I also had freedom to pick who'll be the engineer on the sessions, who will mix and master the record. I also had something to say with the cover, and text in the booklet. It’s passion that drives them to do what they do, passion and the idea that so called 'difficult' or demanding music [to the listener] can have an audience and there is a need for art, music that force you to think, to have your own opinion.”

Besides more CDs by Polish players such as Wacław Zimpel and Nikola Kołodziejczyk, FOR TUNE has scheduled for release discs featuring among others as the Charles Gayle Trio playing with Ksawery Wójciński; Marek Kądziela’s ADHD playing with Rudi Mahall; plus Trio Y from Poland featuring Marco Eneidi. These join already released discs such as Mazolewski González Quintet’s Shaman, featuring Dennis González. FOR TUNE has already released sessions by non-Polish working groups such as those headed by Anthony Braxton and William Parker and they’ll sson be joined by CDs from Evan Parker/Agusti Fernandez, Trevor Watts/Calvin Weston, Ches Smith’s These Arches and Mostly Other People Do the Killing,

If that isn’t enough Polit discloses that the label is actively searching for a Warsaw location where it could open a music club, eventually combining it with the company’s main office and recording studio. Plus plans are afoot to organize a music festival, FOR TUNE Meetings to take place at the end of 2014. “There is still so much work to be done, but we continue to be enthusiastic and full of passion.”

On the evidence so far, it would seem that the enthusiasm and passion are also fortunate for the musicians affiliated with For Tune.

—For The New York City Jazz Record June 2014