Don Sleet

All Members

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It's safe to say that most jazz lovers have never even heard of Don Sleet. The trumpeter died in obscurity in 1986, and 1961's little-known All Members is his only album as a leader. Produced by Orrin Keepnews, All Members demonstrates that he deserved a much higher profile. This fine hard bop date paints a consistently attractive picture of Sleet, who had a medium tone that was bigger than Miles Davis and Chet Baker but not as big as Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, or Lee Morgan. Nonetheless, Davis and Baker were prominent influences, as was Kenny Dorham (who also favored a medium-toned style of trumpeting). Another valid comparison is Art Farmer. But Sleet was an expressive, swinging player in his own right, and he shows himself to be a captivating soloist on two Clifford Jordan pieces ("The Hearing" and ("Brooklyn Bridge") as well as the familiar standards "But Beautiful," "Secret Love," and "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise." Also impressive is Sleet's exhilarating "Fast Company," which has a title that describes the people who join him on All Members. Although Sleet was obscure, you can't say that about tenor saxman Jimmy Heath, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Ron Carter, or drummer Jimmy Cobb -- all of them are major jazz artists, and all of them are present on this album. The phrase "fast company" also describes Keepnews, who is one of the most famous and prolific jazz producers of all time. In a perfect world, an album as strong as All Members (which Fantasy reissued on CD on its Original Jazz Classics imprint in 2001) wouldn't be so little known. But Sleet's obscurity doesn't make him any less appealing; All Members is a CD that bop lovers should savor.

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