How a Jazz Musician and Entrepreneur Spends His Sundays


Jazz bassist Matthew Garrison doesn’t like slowing down. “I’m always thinking, doing,” he said.

As a recording artist he has toured with Herbie Hancock and as a producer he helps organize upcoming shows with pianist Jason Moran, drummer Jack DeJohnette and others. But most days, he’s focused on producing music events through ShapeShifter Lab and its nonprofit, ShapeShifter Plus. He also created the Tunebend app, which enables virtual collaboration and recording between musicians.

mr. Garrison, the son of Jimmy Garrison, John Coltrane’s bassist, seems to like to push boundaries in the jazz world. “I’m really tired of the stagnant music scene where this club only books a certain type of band and that club only books musicians who play this genre,” he said.

For ten years, Mr. Garrison opened a performance space in Gowanus, Brooklyn, also known as the ShapeShifter Lab, but it closed last year. He will open a new location soon. “My new space will be a place for artists, those genius rejects, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to play in the city.”

Mr. Garrison, 52, lives in Park Slope with his business partner, Fortuna Sung, 51.

DARK AND QUIET Time has been shaky after the pandemic. It sounds awful, but sometimes I wake up as early as 4 a.m. and get a lot of work out of the way. I code for my apps, including Tunebend, and organize things on my computer for a few hours because everyone is asleep. There is no one around to call, text or harass you.

CAFFEINEAP I might have some coffee and a light breakfast. I have a weird relationship with coffee these days. It doesn’t keep me awake. I now use coffee as a sleep aid. I don’t know how that works. So after working for a few hours and drinking some coffee, I often go back to sleep.

WORK WEEKEND Around 9 or 10 am I wake up again and drink another cup of coffee. The music industry is a 24-hour thing. I communicate with people in Europe and Japan all the time, so my weekends don’t count as a day off. I have to divide my working hours and devote certain days to my three ventures to get everything done. On Sundays I try to do the things I couldn’t do during the week. But I mess up when I multitask too much.

STEPS Then maybe I could compose for a few hours. Or I go for a walk in Prospect Park or zigzag through neighborhood streets. Sometimes I venture into Gowanus and Carroll Gardens. Fortuna says I’m running too fast, but I need to get my heart rate up. My body tells me I need it.

SONG LAYERS I listen to music on Tunebend while I walk. I listen to see how all the bits and pieces that are recorded can become layers in a song. You can swap different artists for the same part, so I listen and rearrange a lot. But I also interact with the app as a user to see if anything needs to be adjusted. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but that’s how I decompress.

TO COLLABORATE If you’re coding or composing music, you’re solving problems. You are in a continuous investigation mode to find out why something is done a certain way. In the jazz world there is so much that you have to know and be able to play in a split second. When coding, you also have to remember all these bits and pieces to build something. The only difference between the two worlds is the pay!

NEW SPACE I’ve finally got the keys to a new play space that we’ll be opening by the end of the year. So far, I’ve done a livestream workshop on how to use the Tunebend app, but I’m preparing for a lot of fundraising so that we can host shows and events here for all kinds of musicians.

MAINTENANCE We do our grocery shopping nearby, including groceries from the Park Slope Food Co-op. Fortuna, whose family is from Hong Kong, is the better cook. Her artist parents also owned and operated a restaurant, so she knows her way around a kitchen. When we eat out it can be Japanese or Thai. Today we had dinner with my mother at Littleneck.

OLD TIME After dinner I watch TV or read. I’m news-oriented: there are so many things to keep track of that makes me understand how to make this world a better place. I also like technical stuff, like articles about the latest music software plug-ins. My mom still berates me that all my reading is done on a screen. Now I have retirement: I’m in bed at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Matthew Garrison on Instagram and Twitter @garrisonjazz.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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