Erik Pointer probably gets caught in those awkward moments when someone is not-so-quietly musing to his own beat more often than he'd care to admit. But the Kansas City trumpeter and composer nonetheless offers plenty of glimpses into the creative cogs of his musical mind on Better Late Than Never. A teacher by trade, Painter is an occasional sideman for bassist Bill McKemy, but this ambitious debut centers solely on Pointer and the mentors, memories and Missouri roots that have shaped his life and music. Some cuts strike shadowy poses -- "Bill, Winter of '84" is an ethereal and haunting homage to his friend and former pupil McKemy. Others, such as "User Frenzy," cut to the quick with sharp riffs and tight melodies punctuated by Pointer's capable trumpet work. Better Late Than Never finds an honest stride in the plaintive, simple moments of songs such as "Autumn Winds," in which he reminisces about life and loss. Pointer wrote, performed and produced the album himself, and that burden causes him to stumble in those moments when vision exceeds means. Given the opportunity to share his work in a more collaborative setting, these interior monologues could easily translate into more lively discussions.