Don Sleet

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Although little known, Don Sleet was a gifted hard bop/post-bop trumpeter who had an attractive, smooth tone along the lines of Kenny Dorham and Art Farmer. Dorham was a strong influence on Sleet's playing,…
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Although little known, Don Sleet was a gifted hard bop/post-bop trumpeter who had an attractive, smooth tone along the lines of Kenny Dorham and Art Farmer. Dorham was a strong influence on Sleet's playing, and certain aspects of Miles Davis' lyricism had a major impact on him as well. But Sleet had a bigger tone than Davis; he favored a medium tone that was bigger than Davis and Chet Baker but not as big as the Fats Navarro/Clifford Brown school of trumpeting. Sleet was born in Fort Wayne, IN, on November 27, 1938 but grew up in San Diego, where he studied both jazz and classical as a teenager. In fact, the trumpeter played classical for three years with San Diego Symphony, although jazz was his main focus. Sleet also spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, and it was in L.A. that he studied with trumpeter Shorty Rogers and met vibist Terry Gibbs (who hired him to play in the trumpet section of his big band). In 1960, he spent a few months with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, one of L.A.'s top jazz outfits at the time. The following year, Sleet had a chance to record as a leader when, at 22, he recorded All Members for Jazzland. Produced in New York by Orrin Keepnews, the album finds Sleet joined by an impressive East Coast cast that includes Jimmy Heath on tenor saxophone, Wynton Kelly on piano, Ron Carter on upright bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. But despite getting the chance to work with such heavyweights on his first album, Sleet never enjoyed the recognition he should have. All Members turned out to be his only release; Sleet never recorded a second album, and in 1986, he died in obscurity at the age of 47. In 2001, Fantasy reissued All Members on CD for its Original Jazz Classics series.