Shifting Paradigm Records to officially launch

Twin Cities jazz is ever-changing, but the folks behind Shifting Paradigm Records hope to become a consistent figure in the scene.

Jazz guitarist Zacc Harris strums a melody with his Sadowsky guitar at Studio Z in St. Pauls Lowertown Arts District.  His label, Shifting Paradigm Records, is holding a release party on Saturday.

Cole Feagler

Jazz guitarist Zacc Harris strums a melody with his Sadowsky guitar at Studio Z in St. Paul’s Lowertown Arts District. His label, Shifting Paradigm Records, is holding a release party on Saturday.

Joe Kellen

Zacc Harris didn’t own a guitar until he was 16 years old.

“I was a late bloomer for sure,” the founder of Shifting Paradigm Records said. “But I’m also something of a go-getter, so I was fast to dive in.”

Harris started playing rock music, but by the time he was a student at Southern Illinois University, he was playing weekly jazz gigs at restaurants and bars.

Fast forward to 2014, and Harris is still infected with the productivity bug. After establishing himself in the Twin Cities jazz scene with outfits like the Atlantis Quartet and his own group, Harris is preparing to start Shifting Paradigm.

“There’s a connecting strand for all of the bands. We like to play modern, original music with an emphasis on improvising,” he said. “We love ’em, but we want to play more than standards.”

Shifting Paradigm’s current roster of artists includes the Atlantis Quartet, the Bryan Nichols Quintet, Fat Kid Wednesdays, the Graydon Peterson Quartet and the Zacc Harris Group. Each band has a considerable amount of overlap with the others — Bryan Nichols, for example, has played with almost all his label mates.

Though the musicians play with each other all the time, the style is far from uniform. The Atlantis Quartet embodies a spastic sound that jiggles and jumps in more avant-garde directions, while Fat Kid Wednesdays employs thick, groovy bass lines as its bread and butter. Nichols said it would be ideal to add newcomers to the label in the future to create some diversity.

“We’re all associated with each other,” Nichols said. “We want to present a united front. We want people to know that we’re here and making cool music and it’s accessible.”

Accessibility is huge for Shifting Paradigm, both musically and financially. Harris said affordability of content is a main priority, and — they’re looking at you, audiophiles — all of their downloadable material will be available in the coveted FLAC format. While these files are larger and don’t work in popular media players without a little conversion work, the quality is eons beyond MP3 and WAV files.

Shifting Paradigm also aims to work as a venue for composers. Their website will have sheet music available for download along with digital records.

“Original music is important to us,” Harris said. “If people want to engage with our music in that way, I think we should provide that opportunity.”

The label wants to stay true to the improvisational cornerstone of jazz, though. It’s just as important as composing, said Fat Kid Wednesdays’ drummer, JT Bates.

“You improvise every day,” he said. “Conversations, walking down the street — it’s innately human.”

Bates said his hopes for Shifting Paradigm are more communal than theoretical. Regardless of whether audience members understand the tenets of jazz, Shifting Paradigm seeks to dispel the assumption that jazz is ornate background music for elevators and sterile lobbies.

“We’re thinking foreground,” Bates said.

As far as the future is concerned, Shifting Paradigm hopes to sign as many interested artists as they can. Nichols listed Rhymesayers as an inspiration and a notable example of the power of hard work and dedication to the business side of music.

“The great thing about Minneapolis is that it doesn’t have the crushing weight of cities like New York or London,” Nichols said. “There’s tons going on, and we can add to that.”

Harris said it’s going to be a long road, but all in all, Shifting Paradigm is an encapsulation of his desire to share.

“I always stay positive about the scene, and it keeps growing,” he said. “It’s not a bad place to start.”


What: Shifting Paradigm Records Launch Party
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: 275 E. Fourth St., Suite 200, St. Paul
Cost: $10