Don Sleet: All Members (2001)
Leading a top-flight hard bop combo containing two thirds of the then current Miles Davis rhythm section and a third party that would join that famous fold momentarily Sleet teams up with tenor man Heath for a seven course meal of solid blowing vehicles. Compositional bookends by Clifford Jordan make surprising appearances and both “Brooklyn Bridge” and “The Hearing” showcase Sleet to fine effect. On the former the trumpeter sounds off with an opening rush of clipped phrases measured with lengthier lines. The latter tune mines similar melodic ore with Heath sounding in particularly fine form through a string of contemplative blues drenched choruses.
The ballad “But Beautiful” elaborates the band’s softer side with a superbly enunciated entreaty from the leader and an answering foray from Heath that furthers the romantic mood. The title track is infused with buoyant, infectious swing advanced through the singing tone of Sleet’s bell and the stately chordal ingenuity of Kelly. The rhythm section is largely unobtrusive, though Carter chimes in with a stringent arco solo on “Fast Company” that seems at odds with the temperaments of his partners. Ira Gitler’s socially conscious liners intimate some of the racially centered obstacles that Sleet may have found himself confronted with, but the reasons behind his failure to segue into higher profile standing are just as likely a result of the sheer numbers of his peers already exercising such clout.
Track Listing: Brooklyn Bridge/ Secret Love/ Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise/ Fast Company/ But Beautiful/ All Members/ The Hearing.
Personnel: Don Sleet- trumpet; Jimmy Heath- tenor saxophone; Wynton Kelly- piano; Ron Carter- bass; Jimmy Cobb- drums. Recorded: March 16, 1961, NYC.
Record Label: Jazzland Recordings