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  • Downbeat Readers' Poll 2017

    Again, a yearly tradition, who I voted for in the Downbeat Readers' Poll, and with some brief explanations.

    Hall of Fame: Bob Brookmeyer

    Also considered: Benny Golson, Oliver Nelson, Sam Rivers, Cedar Walton. Any of these guys would have been great, of course, but it just kind of seems like Brookmeyer had more to do with the way modern big band is than anyone else in the last sixty years.

    Jazz Artist: Ambrose Akinmusire

    Also considered: Maria Schneider, Brad Mehldau. I don't know how to do this question, it's kind of overwhelming, and I cant say there was any one person who stuck out to me too much this year, so I'll go with Ambrose, the undisputed champ of jazz trumpet.

    Jazz Group: Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet

    Also considered: Donny McCaslin group, Brad Mehldau Trio. Yeah, I don't know. Just not that many albums by BANDS that I was huge on this year. This answer of course doesn't even make sense, since the last Ambrose album was a QUARTET. But whatever.

    Big Band: Darcy James Argue's Secret Society

    Also considered: Maria Schneider Orchestra. The only reason I'll give it to Darcy over Maria is because they actually released an album this year.

    Jazz Album: Jakob Bro/Thomas Morgan/Joey Baron, Streams (ECM)

    Also considered: Wolfgang Muthspiel, Rising Grace; Tillery, Tillery; Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau, Nearness. Streams was the album that hit me hardest this year - it's really beautiful, check it out!

    Historical Album: Lee Konitz and Kenny Wheeler Quartet, Live at Birdland Neuburg

    Also considered: Steve Reich, the ECM Recordings. I'm psyched whenever new Kenny Wheeler is made available.

    Trumpet: Ambrose Akinmusire

    Also considered: Avishai Cohen, Terence Blanchard. Avishai is playing some shit, and Terence is still at the top of the game, but this isn't even close.

    Trombone: Ryan Keberle

    Also considered: Marshall Gilkes

    Soprano Saxophone: Steve Wilson

    Also considered: Joshua Redman. I maintain that I like Redman's soprano playing more than his tenor playing. This was close, but Wilson basically clinches it for his playing on the title track of Maria Schneider's "The Thompson Fields."

    Alto Saxophone: Greg Ward

    Also considered: Jon Irabagon. Greg is one of the best things about Chicago right now. His tone is other-worldly, and he's an incredibly sensitve player. He's the man.

    Tenor Saxophone: Mark Turner

    Also considered: Joshua Redman, Walter Smith III, Donny McCaslin, Ben Wendel. I liked but didn't love Wendel's last album. I wasn't a huge fan of McCaslin's last album. Walter and Joshua are, like, legacy options. But as no one else REALLY stood out to me this year, I'll keep it with Mark Turner. Shoutout to Dustin Laurenzi, too.

    Bari Saxophone: Scott Robinson

    I feel bad but... I don't actually listen to Bari players. Sorry, Mark Hiebert.

    Clarinet: Anat Cohen

    Flute: N/A

    Piano: Tigran Hamasyan

    Also considered: Fabian Almazan, Brad Mehldau. Brad is always around, and I'm a huge fan of the things Fabian is doing. But Tigran (WHO I HAD TO WRITE IN WTF DOWNBEAT) is still, just, the man. I quite liked his latest solo album, even if I was a little bit disappointed by his album "Atmospheres" with Arve Henriksen.

    Keyboard: Adam Benjamin

    Also considered: Jason Lindner. Kneebody's guy is doing good stuff for them.

    Organ: N/A

    Guitar: Jakob Bro

    Also considered: Bill Frisell, Lionel Loueke, Gilad Hekselman. Frisell and Loueke are always around, but Streams was so good I have to give it to Bro.

    Bass: Thomas Morgan

    Also considered: Linda Oh, Larry Grenadier. Linda Oh, who was here in Madison for a week this spring, is the shit. But Morgan's playing makes me rethink what I think about the bass.

    Electric Bass: Tim Lefebvre

    Also considered: Derrick Hodge, Ike Sturm. Hodge's latest album was fine, but not particularly memorable. Lefebvre's work with McCaslin's group has, I think, really made a big impact on modern electric jazz bass playing. (At least for me.) Check out Ike and Jesse Lewis' new album, Endless Field.

    Violin: Zach Brock

    Drums: Brian Blade

    Also considered, Eric Harland, Kendrick Scott, Jim Black. Again here, no one really stuck out, so I kind of just picked some of my favorites.

    Vibraphone: Chris Dingman

    Also considered: Justin Thomas

    Percussion: N/A

    Miscellaneous Instrument: Gary Versace, organ

    Male Vocalist: Gregory Porter

    Also considered: Theo Bleckmann, Jacob Collier

    Female Vocalist: Camila Meza

    Also considered: Becca Stevens, Gretchen Parlato. Can't go wrong with any of em.

    Composer: Maria Schneider

    Who I don't believe has much competition.

    Arranger: N/A

    This is a weird category; I bet Maria wins this one, too. But she's not really arranging anything. Honestly, I don't really know anyone who does new arrangements. Joe Clark, maybe!

    Record Label: ECM

    Blues Artist/Album: N/A

    Beyond Artist: Björk

    Beyond Album: A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service