Matty Harris is a 30-year-old Edina native who came up through the ranks of the Edina band program, starting on clarinet in fifth grade and switching to the saxophone in seventh grade. Harris now plays a dozen woodwind instruments; a few “weird ones” are his favorites: bass clarinet, a tiny sax called the sopranino and the piccolo.
Harris went to college locally for a few years before transferring to the California Institute of the Arts, (Cal Arts). He earned a BFA and MFA in jazz performance at Cal Arts, where much of his education, he says, happened through assembling bands, writing music for and performing with those bands on a regular basis. One piece of advice Harris offers to up-and-coming musicians is grounded in this Cal Arts experience. “Form bands with your friends,” he says, even in middle school and high school. This is especially important for more talented players, who can get bored in the first years of playing. Your commitment to the band and other players, Harris says, will inspire you to better performance. “I didn’t really get into music before I made my own bands.” Another suggestion directed to high school band students: “Get in as much practice as you can, even if you’re not planning on majoring in music. In college there are lots of fun performing opportunities.”
He calls jazz “American classical music” and says that learning about jazz music theory has helped him understand all music theory. “But I’m not really a straight-ahead jazz performer,” Harris insists. “I chose the sax before I chose jazz.” In terms of music style, he prefers the somewhat avant-garde jazz-rock fusion, or the “psychedelic chamber jazz,” in his words, that characterize the album Matty Harris Double Septet.
His band will play selections from the album at a few release shows this summer in Minneapolis and Los Angeles. In the recording, Harris does double-duty as performer and bandleader. “In an ensemble like this,” he says, “the band leader decides when different instruments come in, or when a player takes a solo.” He and the other 13 performers are all associates from Los Angeles. “Both of my Cal Arts sax teachers are in the ensemble,” he says, helping to fill the roster of two drum sets, two upright basses, a Fender Rhodes electric piano, electric baritone guitar, plus horns, trumpets and woodwinds.
Harris lives in the Minneapolis area and travels back to Los Angeles three to four times a year for ongoing performance and recording projects. If you want to see Harris in a local live performance, check out the Facebook page of Hennepin County Millionaire’s Club, a band featuring Harris and a few musicians from his Edina High School graduating class. Harris and company have been busy: Hennepin County Millionaire’s Club is also in the process of recording an LP with Secret Stash Records (secretstashrecords.com), due out this summer. The band’s recent gigs have included engagements at Icehouse in Minneapolis, Bedlam in Lowertown and the Lift Bridge Brewing Co. in Stillwater.
Harris also teaches beginner clarinet and saxophone at Schmitt Music and Glen Lake Music Studio, and is looking to build his student base, perhaps adding more advanced players. For lessons, contact Matty Harris at 952.393.1004.
Ask for the newly released Matty Harris Double Septet, available on CD or vinyl LP at local record stores or shop online at at the website here.