He arranges songs and solves problems

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Monday, June 17, 2024


He arranges songs and solves problems
Jazz musician Matthew Garrison plays the bass in Brooklyn, N.Y. on July 24, 2022. Garrison codes, composes, performs and produces as he pushes the boundaries of music. Danielle Amy/The New York Times.



NEW YORK, NY.- 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 pianist Jason Moran, 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 Tunebend app, which facilitates virtual collaborating and recording among musicians.

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, 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.”

Garrison, 52, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, 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.




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.

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!

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 fundraising 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.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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