Blue notes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 May, 2011, 12:00am


Matthew Garrison was only five years old when his father, the great Jimmy Garrison who played bass for John Coltrane, died, but he learned a lot from him, and not just about playing bass.

'Eventually I was assigned the job of looking over his estate and what had gone wrong and gone right with his work - the kind of documents that he signed and the kind that he didn't sign. At the time that he was working, exploration in music was the theme. Business was not. I saw these things happening that were horrendous. There would be cheques for one cent,' recalls Garrison over the phone from his home in New York.

The experience taught virtuoso bass guitarist Garrison, whose quartet play here on May 28 as part of the Hong Kong Summer Jazz Festival, that he had to take care of business as well as music.

Since 2000 he has had his own production company, called GarrisonJazz Productions, through which he not only releases his music but which is setting up a 'performance space' in New York which will be part jazz club and part music and video recording facility. 'It's called Shapeshifter Lab - Shapeshifter after my second record and then Lab because we're going to try to get everybody who goes in there to do some experimental stuff,' he explains.

Garrison made the money for this project not just by lucrative pop session and touring work but as a gigging jazz musician, both as a sideman and a leader.

'It's easier for me to make fees for what I do than to tour with a big pop act. In fact as a sideman it's easier to make some money playing jazz than pop,' he says.

His jazz sessionography now includes CDs with Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul, Jim Beard and Steve Coleman among many others.

Working with Hancock and McLaughlin, both of whom are technology geeks, nudged him in the direction of his most recent experiment - Shapeshifter Live 2010 Part 1, in which Garrison's bass is featured in a complex musical dialogue with a series of loops and other musical parts on a computer.

He hasn't stopped working with live musicians - although one of his computers will be featured in the Hong Kong performance. 'It's going to be a quartet - me with my bass and computer, Scott Kinsey on keys, Gene Lake on drums and Adam Rogers on guitar. It should be pretty slammin' as we say round here,' Garrison says.

The Matthew Garrison Quartet plays the Hong Kong Polytechnic's Jockey Club Auditorium on May 28 at 8pm. Tickets from HK$180 to HK$380 are available through HK Ticketing.

Take Three

Three CDs highlighting Matthew Garrison's bass guitar virtuosity.

The Heart of Things (Verve, 1997): Garrison and drummer Dennis Chambers make up a formidable rhythm section on this electric jazz rock outing from guitarist John McLaughlin.

Advocate (ESC, 1999): one of Garrison's own favourites among his recordings as a sideman is this album by keyboardist and vocalist Jim Beard.

Shapeshifter (GarrisonJazz Productions, 2004): Garrison finds his own unique voice on his second album on which he also handles guitar, keyboards, computer programming and vocals.