How a jazz musician and entrepreneur spends his Sundays


Jazz bassist Matthew Garrison doesn’t like to slow down. “I always think, I do,” he said.

As a performer, he’s toured with Herbie Hancock, and as a producer, he’s helping curate upcoming shows with pianist Jason Moran, drummer Jack DeJohnette and others. But most of the time, it focuses on producing music events through ShapeShifter Lab and its non-profit arm, ShapeShifter Plus. He also created the Tunebend app, which facilitates virtual collaboration and recording between musicians.

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

For a decade, Mr. Garrison ran a performance space in Gowanus, Brooklyn, also called ShapeShifter Lab, but it closed last year. Soon it will open a new room. “My new space will be a place for performers, those rejected geniuses, who otherwise couldn’t perform in the city.”

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

DARK AND QUIET The weather has been wobbly after the pandemic. It sounds awful, but sometimes I wake up as early as 4 a.m. and have a lot of work to do. I code for my apps, including Tunebend, and organize things on my computer for a few hours because everyone is sleeping. There is no one around you calling, texting, or listening to you.

CAFFEINE NAP I could have a coffee and a light breakfast. I have a weird relationship with coffee these days. It doesn’t keep me from sleeping. I now use coffee as a sleep aid. I don’t know how it works. So after working a few hours and drinking coffee, I often go back to sleep.

WORKING WEEKEND I wake up again around 9 or 10 and go get 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 dedicate certain days to my three companies to do everything. On Sundays, I try to do what I couldn’t do on weekdays. But I make a mess if I multitask too much.

NOT Then I could compose for several hours. Or I’m going for a walk in Prospect Park or zigzagging through the streets of the neighborhood. Sometimes I venture into Gowanus and Carroll Gardens. Fortuna says I’m walking 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 tracks that have been recorded can become layers in a song. You can swap different performers for the same part, so I do a lot of listening and rearranging. But I also interact with the app as a user to see if anything needs to be changed. I know it doesn’t look like it, but that’s how I decompress.

GATHERING When you code or compose music, you are solving problems. You are in a continuous search mode to understand why something is done in a particular way. In the world of jazz, there is so much to know and play in a fraction of a second. In coding, you also need to remember all of these things to build something. The only difference between the two worlds is the salary!

NEW SPACE I finally got the keys to a new performance space that we will be opening by the end of the year. So far I’ve hosted a live workshop on using the Tunebend app, but I’m preparing for a lot of fundraisers so we can host shows and events for all types of musicians here .

SUBSISTENCE We do our shopping in the neighborhood, including shopping at the Park Slope Food Co-op. Fortuna, whose family is from Hong Kong, is the best cook. Her artist parents also owned and operated a restaurant, so she knows a kitchen well. When we eat in a restaurant, it can be Japanese or Thai. Today we had dinner with my mother at Littleneck.

THE TIME OF THE ELDERLY After dinner I will watch TV or read. I’m focused on the news: there’s so much to follow, which makes me realize how I can make this world a better place. I also like technical stuff, like articles on the latest plug-ins for music software. My mother still scolds me that all my readings are done on screen. Now I have old time: I’m in bed at 9 or 10 p.m.

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


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