How a Jazz Musician and Entrepreneur Spends His Sundays

The jazz bass player Matthew Garrison doesn’t like to slow down. “I’m always thinking, doing,” he said.

As a performer, he has toured with Herbie Hancock and has upcoming shows with the pianist Jason Moran, the drummer Jack DeJohnette and others. But most days, he is focused on producing music events through ShapeShifter Lab and its nonprofit arm, ShapeShifter Plus. He also created the app Tunebend, which facilitates virtual collaborating and recording among musicians.

Mr. Garrison, who is the son of Jimmy Garrison, the bassist for John Coltrane, seems to like pushing 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 that play this genre,” he said.

For a decade, Mr. Garrison ran a performance space in Gowanus, Brooklyn, also called the ShapeShifter Lab, but it closed last year. Soon, he will open a new venue. “My new space will be a place for performers, those genius rejects, who would not 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 wonky post-pandemic. It sounds horrible, but sometimes I wake up as early as 4 a.m. I 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’s no one around calling, texting or bugging you.

Mr. Garrison plans to open a new performance space near the one he ran for a decade in Gowanus, Brooklyn, which closed last year. Credit…Danielle Amy for The New York Times

CAFFEINATED NAP 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 I work for a few hours and drink some coffee, I often go back to sleep.

WORKING WEEKEND I wake up again around 9 or 10 a.m. and I’ll have another cup of coffee. The music industry is a 24-hour thing. I communicate with folks in Europe and Japan all the time, so my weekends don’t count as a day off. I have to divide my work hours and devote certain days to my three ventures to get everything done. On Sundays, I try to get to the stuff I couldn’t do during the weekday. But I make a mess if I multitask too much.

STEPS Then I might compose for several hours. Or I go take a walk in Prospect Park or zigzag through neighborhood streets. Sometimes I venture out into Gowanus and Carroll Gardens. Fortuna says I walk too fast, but I need to get my heart rate up. My body is telling me I need it.

Mr. Garrison’s piano used to belong to Ravi Coltrane, the son of John Coltrane.Credit…Danielle Amy for The New York Times
“When you’re coding or composing music, you’re problem-solving.”Credit…Danielle Amy for The New York Times

SONG LAYERS I listen to music on Tunebend while I walk. I listen to see how all the bits and pieces that were recorded can become layers in a song. You can swap out different performers for the same part, so I do a lot of listening and rearranging. But I’m also interacting with the app as a user to see if anything needs to be tweaked. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but this is how I decompress.

PIECING IT TOGETHER When you’re coding or composing music, you’re problem-solving. You’re in continuous research mode to figure out why something is done in a particular way. In the jazz world, there’s so much that you have to know and be able to play in a fraction of a second. In coding, you also have to remember all these bits and pieces to build something. The only difference between the two worlds is the pay!

From left, Mr. Garrison, his mother, Roberta Garrison, and Fortuna Sung, his business partner, at Littleneck in Brooklyn.Credit…Danielle Amy for The New York Times
“Fortuna says I walk too fast, but I need to get my heart rate up. My body is telling me I need it.”Credit…Danielle Amy for The New York Times

NEW SPACE I finally got the keys to a new performance space that we’ll open by the end of the year. So far I’ve done a livestream workshop on how to use the Tunebend app, but I’m gearing up for a lot of fund-raising so we can put on shows and events for all types of musicians here.

SUSTENANCE We get our errands done in the neighborhood, including groceries from the Park Slope Food Co-op. Fortuna, whose family is from Hong Kong, is the better cook. Her family owned and operated many restaurants, so she knows her way around a kitchen. When we eat out, it might be Japanese or Thai. Today we had dinner with my mom at Littleneck.

OLD-PEOPLE TIME After dinner, I’ll watch TV or read. I’m news-centric: There’s so much stuff to keep up with, which makes me understand how I can make this world a better place. I also like tech stuff, like articles about the newest plug-ins for music software. My mom still scolds me that all my reading is done on a screen. Now I’m on old-people time: I’m in bed by 9 or 10 p.m.

“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 that play this genre,” said Mr. Garrison, above with Ms. Sung. Credit…Danielle Amy for The New York Times

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

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