Back to all posts
  • Down Beat Readers Poll 2015

    This has become a tradition. Here we go.

    HALL OF FAME: Benny Golson. ALSO CONSIDERED: Jan Garbarek, Bob Brookmeyer.

    I've been voting for him for a few years, so I kind of feel like I can't change. His career is maybe too narrow, but he's written some true classics and plays on some really important stuff.

    JAZZ ARTIST: Ambrose Akinmusire. ALSO CONSIDERED: Vijay Iyer, Maria Schneider.

    I am surprised at this pick, but I guess I didn't think anything else was better. I know Iyer is the critical darling but I can't say I'm quite familiar enough with everything he's done lately (which has been a lot) to make that decision.

    JAZZ GROUP: Vijay Iyer Trio. ALSO CONSIDERED: Brad Mehldau Trio, Kneebody, The Bad Plus.

    I will say, though, that I'm more impressed with Iyer's trio as a trio, at least this year, than anybody else.

    BIG BAND: Darcy James Argue's Secret Society. ALSO CONSIDERED: Maria Schneider Orchestra.

    I'll give Darcy the edge. Although, I guess Maria's band actually released an album this year. I think the only reason is because Maria's latest album doesn't have Ingrid Jensen on it and Darcy's does!

    JAZZ ALBUM: Billy Childs - Map to the Treasure. ALSO CONSIDERED: Mark Turner - Lathe of Heaven, Tigran Hamasyan - Mockroot, Walter Smith III - Still Casual.

    Doing this every year makes me realize I need to listen to more new music. I liked a lot of things this year (the cutoff is May 31), but didn't LOVE any of them, I don't think. Billy Childs' album came very, very close though - so many amazing guests, great string writing, good songs.

    HISTORICAL ALBUM: I did not hear any of these. Whoops.

    TRUMPET: Ambrose Akinmusire. ALSO CONSIDERED: Avishai Cohen.

    Ambrose is untouchable right now, man. Sorry Avishai I didn't really consider you. You're great, but, you know.

    TROMBONE: Ryan Keberle. ALSO CONSIDERED: Marshall Gilkes.

    Not to say that I've been buying up jazz trombone records, but Keberle is really great. I liked what I heard of his solo album, and he does great things for both Darcy and Maria.

    SOPRANO SAXOPHONE: Wayne Shorter. ALSO CONSIDERED: Joshua Redman.

    I really like when Redman plays Soprano, but I think that Wayne is probably the king.

    ALTO SAXOPHONE: Kenny Garrett. ALSO CONSIDERED: Jon Irabagon, Loren Stillman.

    Kenny plays so amazingly I can overlook the fact that his music tends to always be smashing me in the face.


    Seriously I can't believe I have to write in Ben Wendel.

    BARITONE SAXOPHONE: Scott Robinson.

    I don't really know any bari players. Mark Hiebert should get votes.

    CLARINET: Anat Cohen.

    FLUTE: Erica von Kleist.

    PIANO: Brad Mehldau. ALSO CONSIDERED: Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Robert Glasper, Fabian Almazan, Craig Taborn, Tigran Hamasyan.

    Brad is still the man for me, despite the fact that Iyer is obviously more prolific, and probably ambitious, currently. Parks and Glasper are still my favorites, and Almazan made some GREAT music this year. Tigran is always around. Taborn is a freak. Man, lots of very good jazz pianists.

    KEYBOARD: Robert Glasper. ALSO CONSIDERED: Craig Taborn, Jason Lindner, Adam Benjamin.

    ORGAN: I don't really feel solid voting for anyone in this category.

    GUITAR: Lionel Loueke. ALSO CONSIDERED: Lage Lund, Bill Frisell.

    I love Lionel and can't wait until he has new music out.

    BASS: Linda Oh. ALSO CONSIDERED: Omer Avital, Larry Grenadier, Matt Brewer.

    Linda Oh just keeps turning up on albums I love.

    ELECTRIC BASS: Derrick Hodge.

    VIOLIN: Pass.

    DRUMS: Brian Blade. ALSO CONSIDERED: Kendrick Scott, Eric Harland.

    Brian Blade wins, but how is Kendrick Scott not an option? Huge oversight.

    VIBES: Chris Dingman.

    His new album is great look it up on Bandcamp it's called The Subliminal and the Sublime.


    MISCELLANEOUS INSTRUMENT: Ben Wendel (Bassoon). ALSO CONSIDERED: Gary Versace (Accordion), Chris Thile (Mandolin).

    Once again, Ben Wendel gets left off...

    MALE VOCALIST: Theo Bleckmann. ALSO CONSIDERED: Bobby McFerrin.

    FEMALE VOCALIST: Gretchen Parlato. ALSO CONSIDERED: Is Becca Stevens a jazz vocalist?

    COMPOSER: Tigran Hamasyan. ALSO CONSIDERED: Darcy James Argue, Maria Schneider, Ben Wendel.

    Tigran, his music has been informing me the most the past year or two.

    ARRANGER: I always feel weird voting for this because the winner is always a composer and not really an arranger in that sense. I'll vote for Maria, because she did that one song for Toots Thielmans and that other one for David Bowie.

    I skipped the Blues things.

    BEYOND ARTIST: Björk. ALSO CONSIDERED: Robert Glasper Experiment, D'Angelo, Is Becca Stevens Band a Beyond Artist?

    BEYOND ALBUM: Björk - Vulnicura (which I wrote a review about here).