Zacc Harris and his modern vision

If the Twin Cities jazz scene were in one large building, Zacc Harris would be room-hopping.


In one room he's in a trio playing jazz standards. Down the hall, he's in the band Vital Organ, a classic jazz combination of guitar, drums and the Hammond b3.

On another floor, Harris jams with the Atlantis Quartet, a sharp ensemble that includes saxophonist Brandon Wozniak, Chris Bates on bass and Pete Hennig on drums.

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Add pianist Bryan Nichols to the mix with J.T. Bates on drums and the band opens another room as the Zacc Harris Group.

Anyone who catches all these groups on stage shouldn't be surprised to see interchangeable parts. The musicians thrive, Harris said, on a collective approach that is intricate, vibrant, and improvisational.

"I think that's what makes a group sound good is a cohesion between the players but [also] a certain amount of juxtaposition between their styles and what they have to say on a particular tune," he said.

That dynamic has paid dividends for Harris, a California native who came to Minneapolis from Southern Illinois seven years ago.

Since then, he's been a key part of an emerging Twin Cities sound, fused from tradition and modern exploration.

Once a player who sought to emulate great artists like Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino, Harris now has a distinct voice -- even if you can still hear those influences.

"I want to sound like me now," he said.

He's also grown with his band mates. In the three years since he set out to record an album with the Zacc Harris group, they've learned to read each other on stage.


Their individual and collective maturity shines on The Garden, the band's new recording.

"There needed to be a process of growth together where I understood them, they understood me, we understood the tunes together."

The album's 10 tracks include nine originals that came to Harris as he was going about daily life. The melody for The Garden came to him in his yard.

Others are based on chord structures that provide roots for eventual melodies. The songs reflect - and sound - like the world around him.

"I'm a huge fan of the soundtrack idea....putting together something that flows in a natural thing where somebody can kind of get lost for 65 minutes ... just sitting back and listening is important."

The Zacc Harris Group will celebrate the new CD Friday and Saturday at St. Paul's Artists Quarter. On stage, a musical conversation between friends will reflect a modern vision.

For a longer take on Zacc Harris, look here.