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