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Brooklyn’s ShapeShifter Lab

How an artist-run performance space remains intimate while expanding

ShapeShifter Lab (outside)
Billy Martin's Wicked Knee at ShapeShifter Lab, December 2012

ShapeShifter Lab’s co-proprietors, Matthew Garrison and Fortuna Sung, paid for the extensive renovations to their Brooklyn space from personal funds, and operate it as a for-profit business. In programming and ambience, the venue follows both the workshop ethos that animates such Manhattan nonprofits as the Jazz Gallery and the Stone and a pragmatic mandate akin to Smalls, the Greenwich Village hardcore jazz club.

Garrison is already expanding ShapeShifter’s scope via two websites, and, with online pedagogy and live performance streams available (shows cost $3). On the latter site, Garrison recently launched a sort of Music Minus One-on-steroids recording project, still in its beta stage, for which he created 15 tunes on bass and computers and asked a cohort of improvisers—so far, they include Gene Lake, Ravi Coltrane, Ingrid Jensen, Aaron Parks, Shai Maestro, Andy Milne, Gregoire Maret, Mike Pope, Mino Cinelu and Garrison himself—to play along. Each contribution appears in a separate track, which subscribers can sample and combine before purchasing specific, editable mixes to create their own virtual band.

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Originally Published

Ted Panken

Ted Panken writes extensively about jazz and creative music for various publications, and programmed jazz and creative music on WKCR-FM in New York City from 1985 through 2008. He won the 2007 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his article “Smalls Universe,” published by DownBeat, and earned the Jazz Journalists’ Association 2016 Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism award. His blog, Today Is The Question, contains over 260 of his articles and verbatim interviews.