Bruce Harris – Beginnings (Posi-Tone)
For his debut as a leader, Bronx-born trumpeter Bruce Harris comes charging out of the gate with a rippling riff that leads into the briskly swinging “Ask Questions.” Once in and out of the no-frills arrangement, Harris takes off on his solo, a smartly assembled set of speedy phrases, quick stabs and echoing passages, followed by Frank Basile’s gritty turn on baritone sax and Dmitry Baevsky’s sinewy expedition on alto.
The post-bop piece is the first of three Harris originals, along with the moody “The Step,” on which the trumpeter is joined by tenor saxophonists Andy Farber and Grant Stewart, and “So Near, So Far,” which closes the album with a well-turned, retro-tinged swinger. This last number is sparked by pianist Michael Weiss’ intro; the steady-beat rhythmic drive of bassist Clovis Nicolas and drummer Pete Van Nostrand; Farber’s big, brash tenor; and Harris’ dazzling muted-trumpet playing. That mute is used to good effect on Harold Arlen’s “Ill Wind,” as well, its warm tone echoed by Jerry Weldon’s slinky tenor sax.
Harris nods to two compositional influences with his read of Horace Silver’s “Mr. Blakey,” a showcase for tight little-big-band ensemble playing and for sprawling solo workouts by Harris, three of the session’s five saxophonists and Weiss. Bud Powell’s perky “Una Noche con Francis” provides another platform for a three-sax section, highlighted by Farber’s brassy, burnished tenor declarations.
The leader briefly nods to another genre, again working his muted-trumpet magic, with a spirited waltz-time version of Prince’s “Do U Lie?” Like the album’s other seven tracks, it feels like a fresh take on a decidedly mainstream acoustic sound. Beginnings attests to Harris’ dynamic, often surprising trumpet playing and his knack for crafting appealing compositions and arrangements. It’s a top-shelf start.
— Philip Booth