Every year during the 90's I would write to Fantasy president Ralph Kaffel with a list of ten or so albums that I felt were worthy of reissue in the OJC series . The Sleet was always among those albums . Nothing came of my requests until I put Don Sleet's brother David in touch with the folks at Fantasy . He in turn enlisted some of the people who had played with Don such as Mike Wofford and John Guerin to lobby as well , and Fantasy came through . I guess you could say I was kind of a midwife to the re-birth of this recording on CD .
Fantasy altered the cover art for the CD a little , adding a pink tinting and cropping the cover photo a little . And as usual , they omitted the photos that appeared on the back of the record jacket , in this case one of Wynton Kelly and one of Jimmy Heath . The CD itself sounds great , with all praise due to Ray Fowler and his original recording .
As to the music , well the first thing that makes an impression is Don's tone : clear , pure , bright and brassy . He moves around the horn with ease , has good range , and is not given to flashy displays of his considerable chops . Mr. Consistent Wynton Kelly is beautiful throughout both in support and in his spots . Sometimes I think Wynton couldn't not swing even if he tried ! Ron Carter is solid , except during Brooklyn Bridge
, Fast Company
and All Members
, when he pulls out his bow and brings the swing to a crashing halt in just the way Paul Chambers used to do . Jimmy Heath's phrasing and tone provide contrast with Sleet's , but solo-wise , at the end of the record it's Sleet and Kelly who leave the biggest impressions . The high point of the record for me is the closing number , The Hearing
. I love the moody opening statement of the melody by the horns over Kelly's ostinato and Cobb's sock cymbal , and the contrasting emotional color of the bridge . Sleet turns up the heat during his solo without sacrificing any of the elegance of his swing . The earnest , yearnings of Heath follow , after which there is a Wynton Kelly solo that is the very epitome of swing - just try and keep your body from moving during that one !
Footnote : I have always thought that 'Fast Company' would have been a much more apposite title for this record given the sidemen and given that it's the only Sleet composition on the record .
Further footnote : I think we can agree that Don Sleet was certainly a 'talent deserving wider recognition' , and may have had the misfortune to come on the scene at a time when giants walked the earth , but it would be facile to infer that this led to his drug abuse and ultimately the lymphoma that ended his life at 48 . Or maybe it's just too sad to connect those dots...
Edited by Chas, 02 May 2008 - 10:23 PM.