Many a debut album receives a largely positive critique before being cut down to size with a qualifier. It's simply a jazz journalist's nature to paint newcomers as nascent talent in need of seasoning, players showing signs of potential, or artists taking a good first step with a first record. But sometimes a debut album is simply a strong statement with no need for journalistic hedging. Such is the case with Beginnings.
If you haven't heard trumpeter Bruce Harris play, you're in for a treat. He's got his game together in every way, shape, and form. That's why he's been championed by Wynton Marsalis, occupied trumpet chairs in ghost bands bearing the names of Count Basie and Artie Shaw, mixed it up on stage with leaders as different as saxophone modernist Myron Walden and Cuban pianist Elio Villafranca, worked Broadway pits, and stood side by side with his mentor, trumpet heavy Jon Faddis. Harris is most certainly going places. But lest you think that's another one of those qualifiers, it need be noted that he's also already gone places, too.
The beginning of Beginnings paints Harris as a bopper, a mantle he seems perfectly happy to assume. His unaccompanied horn ushers in his own "Ask Questions," a charged thrill-ride of an opener with plenty of solo space to go around. An "Ill Wind" that's more a positive breeze follows, carried along by drummer Pete Van Nostrand's peppy, Vernel Fournier-influenced groove. Then it's on to Horace Silver's "Mr. Blakey," a nod to Buhaina that receives the dusting off it deserves here; over to a bossa-ballad zone for "Snowbound," flowing and beautifully reflective in scope; and off to "The Step," a bluesy original that sells itself by not overselling itself
Harris most certainly takes a tradition-minded approach with this one, but it's not pure old school. The presence of Prince's "Do U Lie?," reshaped as a buoyant jazz waltz, makes that clear. After that surprise, Harris brings it on home with Bud Powell's "Una Noche Con Francis," a song that greatly benefits from the presence of three of the five saxophonists that rotate in and out of this programalto saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky, tenor saxophonist Andy Farber, and baritone saxophonist Frank Basileand "So Near, So Far," a relaxed swinger of a send-off. This is a beauty of a record put together by a trumpeter with plenty to say.
Ask Questions; Ill Wind; Mr. Blakey; Snowbound; The Step; Do U Lie?; Una Noche Con Francis; So Near, So Far.
Bruce Harris: trumpet; Dmitry Baevsky: alto saxophone (1, 7); Andy Farber: tenor saxophone (3, 5, 7, 8); Jerry Weldon: tenor saxophonist (2); Frank Basile: baritone saxophone (1, 3, 7); Grant Stewart: tenor saxophone (3, 5); Michael Weiss: piano; Clovis Nicholas: bass; Pete Van Nostrand: drums.