After more than a decade of gigging, Bruce Harris spends the first six seconds of his debut album blowing hot, unaccompanied trumpet, as if to establish, for those unfamiliar with him, that he can really play the thing. That accomplished in record time, he gets down to business, introducing his core band—pianist Michael Weiss, bassist Clovis Nicolas and drummer Pete Van Nostrand—and two of the five saxophonists with whom Harris will generously share the spotlight for the next 47 minutes.
That first track, “Ask Questions,” one of three Harris originals here, is a breathless bopper that finds the leader first peeling out a shiny, raucous solo before tagging baritone man Frank Basile, alto saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky and pianist Weiss to embellish the theme. Horace Silver’s “Mr. Blakey” spotlights Basile alongside two tenormen, Andy Farber and Grant Stewart, and, in deference to the title’s honoree, gives wide berth to Van Nostrand to dictate the tune’s feel. (A third tenor guest, Jerry Weldon, appears on “Ill Wind.”)
Harris’ compositions are quite refined, his interpretive skills are acute and he’s well suited for leadership. He’s an impressive voice on the trumpet, boasting strong chops and versatility. If anything, he doesn’t reserve enough breakout space for himself. Only two of the tracks here are sax-free, and when Harris brings it down to the quartet he displays more of his own agility; he utterly transforms Prince’s “Do U Lie?,” bringing to it a modified waltz tempo while retaining the original’s sensuality. Beginnings is just that, but it’s a fine initial leader statement.