Downbeat Announces Results of 2018 Critics Poll And What It Means To Buffalo


Downbeat announced the winners of its 66th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll on June 26th.  The critics poll is a tabulation of votes from 142 jazz critics.  Jazz critics came from the worlds of radio, print, digital, and blogs.  Pianist Vijay Iyer, vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, flutist Nicole Mitchell, trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, orchestra leader Maria Schneider and hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar are among the many artists selected in multiple categories.

The poll represents the views of critics and with 142 of them in tow, you are not going to get full agreement on many talented musicians.  Each year, fast-rising stars, as well as, venerable jazz musicians are left off the list.  And, their omission leaves you with a head-scratching feeling.  On the contrary, you get artists who make the top of a category and such occurrences leave you wondering what critics saw or heard that you did not.  This is to say that votes can be highly subjective and serve as interesting talking points.

With that being said, of most interest is who will be making trips through Buffalo that helps to put the city on the national jazz map.  Surprisingly, we have had quite a few who have come through Buffalo and are about to:

  • Vijay Iyer won Jazz Artist.  Represented on the list, who have performed in Buffalo, were Bill Frisell, Charles Lloyd, Mary Halvorsen, Cecil McLorin Savant, and Robert Glasper
  • Regina Carter’s Ella: Accentuate the Positive album made the list – you may recall she performed in the Legends of Jazz performance last year at Williamsville East High School.  Carter also took top honor for violin.
  • Super excited to see Jane Bunnet and Maqueque in the top 10 for  Jazz Group.  They will be appearing for two nights at Pausa Art House in August.  If you are not all over this yet – you should be!  Bunnett also took third in the Soprano Saxophone category behind Jane Ira-Bloom and Wayne Shorter.
  • Steve Turre, last year’s winner for trombone, came in third behind Wycliffe Gordon.  Gordon has appeared in the area numerous times.  Turre will be making an appearance at the Northwest Jazz Festival this year alongside Elio Villafranca and Vincent Herring.
  • Billy Childs was noted in the Arranger category and Dayna Stephens noted as Rising Star in the tenor saxophone category – both recently appeared in the Art of Jazz Series.
  • JD Allen, Eric Alexander, Melissa Aldana, and David Murray made the list in the tenor saxophone category.  Each has appeared in Buffalo.  Murray recently, Alexander at last year’s Northwest Jazz Festival, Aldana at the Art Of Jazz Series, and JD Allen gave a memorable performance at the John Coltrane Birthday Celebration.  Allen will also be appearing this summer at the Buffalo News Summer Jazz Series.
  • Buffalo native Dr. Lonnie Smith took top honor for organ with Joey DeFrancesco in second.  Jared Gold, who performed at Northwest Jazz Festival last year and Rochester’s Pat Bianchi also appear.
  • Stefon Harris took top honors in vibraphone.  Warren Wolf took second and will be appearing at the Pappy Martin Legacy – Masten Jazz Festival with Curtis Lundy this year.  Behind him were Rochester native Joe Locke and Steve Nelson, who appeared at the Northwest Jazz Festival last year.
  • Female Vocalists are well represented with Savant, Tierney Sutton, Esperanza Spaulding, and Diana Krall having appeared in Buffalo.  Carmen Lundy will be at the Pappy Martin Legacy – Masten Jazz Festival this year – who will be joined by Rising Star Male Vocalist Jamison Ross.
  • Taking fourth in the Rising Stars trombone category is Nick Finzer.  The very talented Nick Finzer and his quintet will be at the Northwest Jazz Festival this year.
  • The gifted pianist Emmet Cohen took fourth in the Rising Star Piano category and will be appearing this year at the Northwest Jazz Festival.
  • Cuban-born pianist and keyboardist, Elio Villafranca, took top honor for Rising Star Keyboard category.  Villafranca will be headlining the Northwest Jazz Festival this year along with Steve Turre and Vincent Herring.
  • Scott Tixier, who made two appearances last year in Buffalo via the Historic Colored Musicians Club CMC Jazz Festival and a JazzBuffalo concert with the Walter Kemp 3oh! – was voted tops in the Rising Star Violin category

Using the Downbeat Critics Poll as just one barometer, Buffalo is indeed getting to be a noted destination on the national jazz map.  Look for more jazz artists, who are listed in the poll, to make it through Buffalo in the future!

The full listing of the poll results will be available in the August issue of Downbeat magazine.  What follows is the list of winners of the 66th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll:

Jazz Artist: Vijay Iyer

Jazz Album: Cécile McLorin Salvant, Dreams And Daggers (Mack Avenue)

Hall of Fame: Benny Golson and Marian McPartland

Historical Album: Miles Davis & John Coltrane, The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 (Columbia/Legacy)

Jazz Group: Vijay Iyer Sextet

Big Band: Maria Schneider Orchestra

Trumpet: Ambrose Akinmusire

Trombone: Wycliffe Gordon

Soprano Saxophone: Jane Ira Bloom

Alto Saxophone: Rudresh Mahanthappa

Tenor Saxophone: Charles Lloyd

Baritone Saxophone: Gary Smulyan

Clarinet: Anat Cohen

Flute: Nicole Mitchell

Piano: Geri Allen (1957–2017)

Keyboard: Robert Glasper

Organ: Dr. Lonnie Smith

Guitar: Mary Halvorson

Bass: Christian McBride

Electric Bass: Steve Swallow

Violin: Regina Carter

Drums: Jack DeJohnette

Percussion: Hamid Drake

Vibraphone: Stefon Harris

Miscellaneous Instrument: Akua Dixon (cello)

Female Vocalist: Cécile McLorin Salvant

Male Vocalist: Kurt Elling

Composer: Muhal Richard Abrams (1930–2017)

Arranger: Maria Schneider

Record Label: ECM

Producer: Manfred Eicher

Blues Artist or Group: Bettye LaVette

Blues Album: Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’, TajMo (Concord)

Beyond Artist or Group: Kendrick Lamar

Beyond Album: Kendrick Lamar, Damn. (Interscope/Top Dawg Entertainment)

Rising Star Categories

Rising Star–Jazz Artist (TIE): Kris Davis and Julian Lage

Rising Star–Jazz Group: Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble

Rising Star–Big Band: John Beasley’s MONK’estra

Rising Star–Trumpet: Amir ElSaffar

Rising Star–Trombone: Jacob Garchik

Rising Star–Soprano Saxophone: Jimmy Greene

Rising Star–Alto Saxophone: Caroline Davis

Rising Star–Tenor Saxophone: Ingrid Laubrock

Rising Star–Baritone Saxophone: Alex Harding

Rising Star–Clarinet: Matana Roberts

Rising Star–Flute: Rhonda Larson

Rising Star–Piano: Orrin Evans

Rising Star–Keyboard: Elio Villafranca

Rising Star–Organ: Roberta Piket

Rising Star–Guitar: Jakob Bro

Rising Star–Bass: Thomas Morgan

Rising Star–Electric Bass: Mimi Jones

Rising Star–Violin: Scott Tixier

Rising Star–Drums: Johnathan Blake

Rising Star–Percussion: Satoshi Takeishi

Rising Star–Vibraphone: Behn Gillece

Rising Star–Miscellaneous Instrument: Tomeka Reid (cello)

Rising Star–Female Vocalist: Jazzmeia Horn

Rising Star–Male Vocalist: Jamison Ross

Rising Star–Composer: Tyshawn Sorey

Rising Star–Arranger: Amir ElSaffar

Rising Star–Producer: Flying Lotus


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