Sleet's Short Reign


Say you're in a strange city and happen to wander into a jazz club. A band you've never heard of is tearing it up onstage and you spend the evening amazed at your great luck. That's how I felt when I picked up hard bop trumpeter Don Sleet's All Members, long out of print, but now available only in digital format.

Raised in San Diego, Sleet studied classical trumpet formally and jazz after hours. He played second chair in the Civic Youth Orchestra and joined the Stan Kenton Band while still in his teens. Hitting New York a few years later, he began recording as a sideman. When Chet Baker was detained in Italy, producer Orrin Keepnews looked to Sleet.

Recorded in 1961, All Members was Sleet's only release as a leader. But what a session it was -- Jimmy Heath sharing the front line, Wynton Kelly and Jimmy Cobb right off of Miles Davis' legendary quintet and Ron Carter on bass. The set list is stellar, too. "Secret Love" and "Softly As A Morning Sunrise" showcase Sleet's warm tone as well as his tasteful, angular lines. And it all swings with the aggressive energy that epitomized that legendary era.

Like many of his peers, drugs got in Sleet's way, shooting holes in his career. He died of cancer at the age of 47. All Members is a wonderful tribute to a very special musician in a very special time.

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