When Winard Harper and his brother, Phillip, left the University of Hartford last year, their formal education didn't stop. In fact, the Harper brothers, who bring their quintet to the One Step Down Friday and Saturday, took up residence in New York and matriculated, so to speak, in the school of hard knocks. But the two former Washingtonians did their homework and today, while their "studies" continue, they are sought after by established players.

A sit-in with Dexter Gordon's combo at Blues Alley was 23-year-old Winard Harper's first break and, recommended by the veteran saxophonist, the young drummer made the European festival scene with the quartet of tenor player Johnny Griffin. Last year he was recruited by vocalist Betty Carter and presently tours worldwide with her group. As for trumpeter Phillip Harper, 19, the past year has been taken up with four months on the road with organist Jimmy McGriff, steady work "with local cats in the city" and hosting the late-night jam session at New York's Blue Note six nights a week. "I'm getting ready to leave for Haiti in a couple of weeks," says Phillip of his first job out of the country. "A couple of people who helped us a whole lot when we were there in D.C. were trumpeter Webster Young and WPFW-FM music director the late Fish Middleton."

"The creator has really blessed and watched over me and Phillip both," says the older brother.