Downbeat Critics Poll: 2017

I voted in Downbeat's Critics Poll on April 5, 2017. I was amused (or shocked) to see editor Bobby Read claim, "Many people say that it takes about 25 minutes to vote." I think I spent 6-8 hours at the computer working on this, and while it probably slows me down to take these notes, for the latter half it arguably sped me up -- I gave only a cursory check of my ballot first pass picks (there had been very few changes from last year) and usually went with whoever I had picked last year. I only went through and broke out the Beyond albums the following day, so figure another two hours for that. The breakouts weren't necessary to fill out the poll, but they're useful for me to figure out what I still need to listen to. (This year I didn't bother breaking out the blues albums. I hardly listen to any of them, even after compiling a list.)


Notes on my voting for Downbeat's 2017 Critics Poll. The voting was conducted using SurveyMonkey. For each of 50-some questions, they provided an extensive list of nominees, but also allowed write-ins. Those I voted for are in bold. The write-ins are in bold italic. The survey allowed for splitting ten votes among two or three candidates. I generally split my vote 5-3-2.

What I generally do is start by scanning the nominees, building a list of people I would consider voting for. Then I go through my somewhat antiquated cribsheet and look for people they missed -- ones I would consider voting for (not necessarily everyone who should be on the ballot). Then I pick and assign votes. Most categories have both a main section and one called "Rising Star" (formerly "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition," or TDWR, a slightly different shading). For this I rarely consider anyone who has been recording for more than 20 years or who is over 50, but that's a rough guideline, and I'd prefer 10 years less.

Needless to say, the categories are far from evenly balanced, which will be obvious from my candidate lists below (although the mismatch will be much greater, as I routinely skip over pianists of much greater stature than people I'd consider for the sparser categories. Also, some categories I care more about than others (e.g., I'm not very conscious of arrangers and composers).

Hall of Fame: Excludes previous winners, including Randy Weston, Phil Woods, and Hoagy Carmichael from 2016. George Russell (5), Anthony Braxton (3), Illinois Jacquet (2). Last year I wrote in the names of Mal Waldron and Jimmy Rushing, hoping that might help get them added to the ballot. (It did not; the only new name I noticed was Kenny Wheeler.) The Downbeat HOF currently has 145 inductees, picking up two per year (one from the Critics Poll, the other from their Readers Poll), and since 2008 they've added 19 more names from their Veterans Committee. This really isn't very many, and is arguably falling ever further behind where it should be. The easiest fix they could do would be to double the annual winners by picking the top living and deceased winners from each poll. It seems to me like they went through a stretch a few years back where for 5-7 years all the winners were people who died in the previous year. (And through much of that time it seemed like Lee Konitz was runner up, held just barely back by not dying.)

It wouldn't hurt to loosen up the Veterans Committe standards. The VC has, for instance, more/less doubled the DBHOF's roster of blues stars, but their remedial picks have barely scratched the surface (Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters). If you want to have a blues wing, maybe you need a special committee. Similarly, last year the VC took a stab at legendary songwriters, but the only one they could agree on was Hoagy Carmichael. (George Gershwin was runner-up, while Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and anyone else you care to mention, missed out.)

First pass: on ballot I also considered voting for: Kenny Barron, Han Bennink, Paul Bley, Anthony Braxton, Jaki Byard, Don Byas, Don Cherry, Jack DeJohnette, Jan Garbarek, Jimmy Giuffre, Grant Green, Dave Holland, Abdullah Ibrahim, Illinois Jacquet, Charles Lloyd, Professor Longhair, John McLaughlin, Tito Puente, Sam Rivers, George Russell, Pharoah Sanders, Tomasz Stanko, Cedar Walton, Kenny Wheeler, John Zorn.

For what it's worth, others on the ballot (notation: 3 = in, but when?; 2 = maybe; 1 = not really; 0 = who are you kidding?; - indicates dropped from previous ballot): Fred Anderson (2), Derek Bailey (2), George Benson (0), Bob Brookmeyer (2), Kenny Burrell (1), Thomas Chapin (1), Buddy DeFranco (2), George Duke (0), Von Freeman (1), Bill Frisell (3), Steve Gadd (0), Benny Golson (2), Chico Hamilton (1), Eddie Harris (2), Jimmy Heath (2), Jon Hendricks (0), Billy Higgins (2), Dave Holland (3), Shirley Horn (2), Bobby Hutcherson (2), Ronald Shannon Jackson (1), Eddie Jefferson (0), Dr. John (1), Yusef Lateef (1), Melba Liston (1), Charles Lloyd (2), Professor Longhair (2), Wynton Marsalis (2), Marian McPartland (2), Carmen McRae (2), Hank Mobley (2), James Moody (1), Joe Morello (0), Mark Murphy (0), Oliver Nelson (2), -Les Paul (1), Gunther Schuller (1), Esbjorn Svensson (1), Toots Thielemans (1), Mel Tormé (1), Chucho Valdes (2), Frank Wess (2), Joe Williams (1), John Zorn (2).

Some other names that should be on the ballot (mostly recent, but several started as far back as the late 1950s; * are still alive, if you want to hold that against them, but over 60): Billy Bang, Borah Bergman, *Carla Bley, Arthur Blythe, Ruby Braff, *Peter Brötzmann, Roy Campbell, *Marilyn Crispell, Art Farmer, Tommy Flanagan, Herb Geller, *Scott Hamilton, John Hicks, Leroy Jenkins, Louis Jordan, *Sheila Jordan, Peter Kowald, *Joe Lovano, *Joe McPhee, *Misha Mengelberg, *David Murray, *Evan Parker, *William Parker, *Gary Peacock, *Houston Person, Don Pullen, Charlie Rouse, *Roswell Rudd, *Irčne Schweizer, Bud Shank, Sonny Sharrock, *Archie Shepp, *Wadada Leo Smith, Horace Tapscott, *Henry Threadgill, *Alex von Schlippenbach, Mal Waldron, David S. Ware, Gerald Wilson.

Some other names that should be considered by the Veterans Committee: Henry "Red" Allen, Mildred Bailey, Chu Berry, Barney Bigard, Cab Calloway, Big Sid Catlett, Serge Chaloff, June Christy, Kenny Clarke, Buck Clayton, Arnett Cobb, Cozy Cole, Eddie Condon, Tommy Dorsey, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Bud Freeman, Lars Gullin, Al Haig, Edmond Hall, Budd Johnson, Bunk Johnson, Wynton Kelly, George Lewis, Louis Jordan, Herbie Nichols, Don Redman, Jimmy Rushing, Luis Russell, Stuff Smith, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Rex Stewart, Lucky Thompson, Frankie Trumbauer, Ethel Waters.

Jazz Artist: I assume this is someone who did monumental work during the last year or two, but I never quite know what that means. Matthew Shipp (5), Ivo Perelman (3), Allen Lowe (2). Two write-ins, but probably more than 20 good-to-better albums total, even factoring out the duplicates (Shipp played on both others' albums). First pass: JD Allen, Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Douglas, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, Ken Vandermark, Matt Wilson, John Zorn.

Rising Star -- Jazz Artist: Craig Taborn (5), Jon Irabagon (3), Mike Reed (2). First pass: JD Allen, Orrin Evans, Mary Halvorson, John Hollenbeck, Jon Irabagon, Mike Reed, Jenny Scheinman, Marcus Strickland, Craig Taborn, David Virelles.

Jazz Album of the Year (April 1, 2016-March 31, 2017): Houston Person & Ron Carter, Chemistry (HighNote) (5); Henry Threadgill, Old Locks And Irregular Verbs (Pi) (3); David Murray/Geri Allen/Terri Lyne Carrington, Perfection (Motéma) (2). Picked these from the top of my Best Jazz Albums of 2016 file, skipping my number one (which came out pre-April and wasn't on the ballot). Only 3 of my 2017 jazz A-list albums made the ballot (David Murray/Aki Takase, Miguel Zenón, and Randy Weston), and I'd sort those below my 2016 picks.

I limited myself to the ballot here, on the theory that write-ins don't have a chance to finish in the print, and won't influence next year's ballot. The ballot lists 121 records (down from 125 last year, 129 the year before). I've heard 78 (64%, up from 61% last year but still down from 2014's 69%), including 18 A-list (14.9%, up from 9.6% last year and 10.6% in 2014). Two lists follow: albums on the ballot that I've rated; albums on the ballot I haven't heard.

Albums on their ballot I've heard and graded (sorted by grade, then within grade alphabetically by artist) (78):

  • Houston Person & Ron Carter, Chemistry (HighNote) [A]
  • JD Allen, Americana: Musings on Jazz and Blues (Savant) [A-]
  • Aziza, Aziza (Dare2) [A-]
  • Jane Ira Bloom, Early Americans (Outline) [A-]
  • Taylor Ho Bynum, Enter the Plustet (Firehouse 12) [A-]
  • George Coleman, A Master Speaks (Smoke Sessions) [A-]
  • Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison, In Movement (ECM) [A-]
  • Charlie Haden Liberation Orchestra, Time/Life (Songs For Whales And Other Beings) (Impulse!) [A-]
  • Fred Hersch Trio, Sunday Night At The Village Vanguard (Palmetto) [A-]
  • Steve Lehman and Sélébéyone, Sélébéyone (Pi) [A-]
  • David Murray/Geri Allen/Terri Lyne Carrington, Perfection (Motéma) [A-]
  • David Murray & Aki Takase, Cherry-Sakura (Intakt -17) [A-]
  • Sonny Rollins, Holding The Stage: Road Shows Vol. 4 (Sony Masterworks) [A-]
  • Catherine Russell, Harlem On My Mind (Jazz Village) [A-]
  • Henry Threadgill, Old Locks And Irregular Verbs (Pi) [A-]
  • Greg Ward, Touch My Beloved's Thoughts (Greenleaf) [A-]
  • Randy Weston, The African Nubian Suite (African Rhythms -17) [A-]
  • Miguel Zenón, Tipico (Miel Music -17) [A-]
  • Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow, Andando El Tiempo (ECM) [***]
  • George Cables, The George Cables Songbook (Smoke Sessions) [***]
  • Uri Caine, Calibrated Thickness (816 Music) [***]
  • Andrew Cyrille Quartet, Declaration Of Musical Independence (ECM) [***]
  • Kris Davis, Duopoly (Pyrotaclastic) [***]
  • ELEW, And To The Republic (Sunnyside) [***]
  • Daniel Freedman, Imagine That (Anzic) [***]
  • Erik Friedlander, Rings (SkipStone) [***]
  • Mary Halvorson Octet, Away With You (Firehouse 12) [***]
  • Marquis Hill, The Way We Play (Concord) [***]
  • Krakauer's Ancestral Groove, Checkpoint (United for Opportunity) [***]
  • Brian Lynch, Madera Latino: A Latin Perspective on the Music of Woody Shaw (Holistic MusicWorks) [***]
  • Rudy Royston, Rise Of Orion (Greenleaf) [***]
  • Wadada Leo Smith, America's National Parks (Cuneiform) [***]
  • Tyshawn Sorey, The Inner Spectrum of Variables (Pi) [***]
  • Matt Wilson's Big Happy Family, Beginning Of A Memory (Palmetto) [***]
  • Rez Abbasi and Junction, Behind the Vibration (Cuneiform) [**]
  • Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Real Enemies (New Amsterdam) [**]
  • Etienne Charles, San Jose Suite (Culture Shock) [**]
  • Akua Dixon, Akua's Dance (self release -17) [**]
  • Orrin Evans, #knowingishalfthebattle (Smoke Sessions) [**]
  • The Fat Babies, Solid Gassuh (Delmark) [**]
  • Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense, Moving Still (Pi) [**]
  • Robert Glasper/Miles Davis, Everything's Beautiful (Sony Legacy) [**]
  • Norah Jones, Day Breaks (Blue Note) [**]
  • Frank Kimbrough, Solstice (Pirouet) [**]
  • Brad Mehldau Trio, Blues And Ballads (Nonesuch) [**]
  • Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom, Otis Was A Polar Bear (Royal Potato Family) [**]
  • Wolfgang Muthspiel, Rising Grace (ECM) [**]
  • Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau, Nearness (Nonesuch) [**]
  • Marc Ribot & The Young Philadelphians, Live In Tokyo (Enja/Yellowbird) [**]
  • Edward Simon, Latin American Songbook (Sunnyside) [**]
  • Steve Turre, Colors Of The Masters (Smoke Sessions) [**]
  • David Virelles, Antenna (ECM) [**]
  • Yellowjackets, Cohearance (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • Joey Alexander, Countdown (Motéma) [*]
  • The Bad Plus, It's Hard (OKeh) [*]
  • Peter Bernstein, Let Loose (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Bill Charlap, Notes From New York (Verve) [*]
  • The Cookers, Call Of The Wild And Peaceful Heart (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Theo Croker, Escape Velocity (Sony Masterworks) [*]
  • Eli Degibri, Cliff Hangin' (Blujazz) [*]
  • Kenny Garrett, Do Your Dance! (Mack Avenue) [*]
  • Robert Glasper Experiment, ArtScience (Blue Note) [*]
  • René Marie, Sound Of Read (Motéma) [*]
  • Pedrito Martinez, Habana Dreams (Motéma) [*]
  • Donny McCaslin, Beyond Now (Motéma) [*]
  • Bob Mintzer, All L.A. Band (Fuzzy Music) [*]
  • Jane Monheit, The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald (Emerald City) [*]
  • John Scofield, Country For Old Men (Impulse!) [*]
  • Cuong Vu Trio, Meets Pat Metheny (Nonesuch) [*]
  • Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, Oddara (Linus Entertainment) [B]
  • Pat Metheny, The Unity Sessions (Nonesuch) [B]
  • Jeff Parker, The New Breed (International Anthem) [B]
  • John Beasley, MONK'estra Vol. 1 (Mack Avenue) [B-]
  • Nels Cline, Lovers (Blue Note) [B-]
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet featuring Kurt Elling, Upward Spiral (Sony Masterworks) [B-]
  • Gregory Porter, Take Me to the Alley (Blue Note) [B-]
  • Marcus Strickland, Nihil Novi (Blue Note) [B-]
  • Snarky Puppy, Culcha Vulcha (GroundUP) [C+]

In quality, I don't find Downbeat's album ballot much better than random picks. Grade breakdown, starting at A: 1, 17, 16, 19, 16, 3, 5, 1 (last year was A: 0, 12, 15, 28, 10, 8, 3, 0, 1). Both slightly better than a normal bell curve, this year better than last, but it's quite possible the unheard records would right-shift the curve.

Albums on their ballot I haven't heard (43; some post-poll grades added as I've started to catch up):

  • John Abercrombie Quartet, Up And Coming (ECM -17)
  • Aggregate Prime, Dreams Deferred (Onyx) [-]
  • Kenny Burrell, Unlimited 1 (HighNote) [-]
  • Billy Childs, Rebirth (Mack Avenue -17)
  • Jacob Collier, In My Room (Membran) [C+]
  • Larry Coryell, Barefoot Man: Sanpaku (Purple Pyramid) [*]
  • John Daversa, Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatles (BFM Jazz)
  • Joey DeFrancesco and the People, Project Freedom (Mack Avenue -17)
  • Duchess, Laughing at Life (Anzic -17) [-]
  • Peter Erskine Trio, In Praise of Shadows (Fuzzy Music -17)
  • Roberto Fonseca, ABUMC (Impulse!)
  • Benny Golson, Horizon Ahead (HighNote)
  • Victor Gould, Clockwork (Fresh Sound New Talent) [-]
  • Cameron Graves, Planetary Prince (Mack Avenue -17) [B-]
  • Tom Harrell, Something Gold, Something Blue (HighNote) [-]
  • Heads of State, Four in One (Smoke Sessions -17) [**]
  • Derrick Hodge, The Second (Blue Note) [B-]
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis featuring Jon Batiste, The Music of John Lewis (Blue Engine -17) [*]
  • Ingrid & Christine Jensen, Infinitude (Whirlwind) [-]
  • Guiellermo Klein, Los Guachos V (Sunnyside)
  • Kneebody, Anti-Hero (Motéma -17) [B]
  • Julian Lage, Live in Los Angeles (Mack Avenue) [B]
  • Carmen Lundy, Code Noir (Afrasia Productions -17)
  • Jason Moran, The Armory Concert (YES) [-]
  • Miles Mosley, Uprising (World Galaxy/Alpha Pup -17)
  • One For All, The Third Decade (Smoke Sessions) [**]
  • Jeremy Pelt, Make Noise! (HighNote -17)
  • Madeleine Peyroux, Secular Hymns (Impulse/Verve)
  • Troy Roberts, Tales & Tones (Inner Circle)
  • Wallace Roney, A Place in Time (HighNote) [-]
  • Yotam Silberstein, The Village (Jazz&People)
  • Bria Skonberg, Bria (OKeh/Sony Masterworks) [***]
  • Nate Smith, Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere (Ropeadope -17) [B]
  • Matthew Stevens, Preverbal (Ropeadope -17)
  • The Tierney Sutton Band, The Sting Variations (BFM Jazz)
  • Craig Taborn, Daylight Ghosts (ECM -17)
  • Tillery, Tillery (Larrecca Music)
  • Scott Tixier, Cosmic Adventure (Sunnyside)
  • Trio 3, Visiting Texture (Intakt -17) [A-]
  • Miroslav Vituous, Ziljabu Nights (Intuition) [-]
  • Warren Wolf, Convergence (Mack Avenue)
  • John Zorn, The Mockingbird (Tzadik)
  • Various Artists, Celebrate Ornette (Song X)

Historical Album (April 1, 2016-March 31, 2017): Shirley Horn, Live at the 4 Queens (Resonance) (5); Van Morrison, It's Too Late to Stop Now: Vol. II, III, IV & DVD (Legacy) (3); Professor Longhair, Live in Chicago (Orleans) (2). Note that the ballot erroneously attributed Shirley Horn's album to "Lena Horn," and that they listed the label on the Morrison album as Warner Bros. (the original source of what's now thought of as Volume 1). I'm sure there are better albums on the ballot than the Professor Longhair EP -- certainly not one of his better efforts -- but once again I've heard very few of these: of 32 items on the ballot, I've only heard 6 (18.8%, up from 17.2% last year, down from 28.5% the year before, still higher than 13.5% in 2014).

The following is the same workout as with new records.

Albums on their ballot I've heard and graded (sorted by grade, then within grade alphabetically by artist) (6 above):

  • Shirley Horn, Live at the 4 Queens (Resonance) [A-]
  • Van Morrison, It's Too Late to Stop Now: Vol. II, III, IV & DVD (Legacy) [A-]
  • Professor Longhair, Live in Chicago (Orleans) [**]
  • Miles Davis, Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 (Sony Legacy) [*]
  • Peter Erskine Trio, As It Was (ECM) [*]
  • Erroll Garner, Ready Take One (Legacy) [*]

Albums on their ballot I haven't heard (26):

  • Count Basie & Lester Young, Classic 1936-1947 Studio Sessions (Mosaic)
  • David Bowie, What Can I Be Now? 1974-1976 (Parlophone)
  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Got A Mind To Give Up Living: Live 1966 (Real Gone)
  • John Cage & Sun Ra, John Cage Meets Sun Ra: Complete Performance (Modern Harmonic)
  • Eric Clapton, Live in San Diego With Special Guest J.J. Cale (Reprise)
  • Dennis Coffey, Hot Coffey In The D: Burnin' At Morey Baker's Showplace Lounge (Resonance)
  • Colosseum, Live (Esoteric)
  • John Coltrane, The Atlantic Years in Mono (Atlantic)
  • Betty Davis, The Columbia Years: 1968-1969 (Light in the Attic)
  • Julius Eastman, Femenine (Frozen Reeds)
  • Bill Evans, Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest (Resonance)
  • Philip Glass, The Complete Sony Recordings (Sony Classical)
  • Mahalia Jackson, Moving On Up A Little Higher (Shanachie)
  • Keith Jarrett, A Multitude Of Angels (ECM)
  • Hayes McMullan, Everyday Seem Like Murder Here (Light in the Attic)
  • Blue Mitchell & Sonny Red, Baltimore 1966 (Uptown)
  • Lee Moses, Time and Place (Future Days)
  • Mark Murphy, Live in Athens, Greece (Harbinger)
  • NRBQ, High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective (Omnivore)
  • Sun Ra, Singles: The Definitive 45s Collection Vol. 1, 1952-1961 (Strut)
  • Steve Reich, The ECM Recordings (ECM)
  • Woody Shaw & Louis Hayes, The Tour: Volume One (HighNote)
  • Jack White, Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016 (Columbia)
  • Classic Savoy Be-Bop Sessions: 1945-1949 (Mosaic)
  • The Savory Collection, Volume 1: Body and Soul: Coleman Hawkins & Friends (National Jazz Museum In Harle/Apple Music)
  • The Savory Collection, Volume 2: Jumpin' At The Woodside: Count Basie & Lester Young (National Jazz Museum In Harlem/Apple Music)

Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing (5), Microscopic Septet (3), Rova (2). I wrote in MOPDTK last year, and Downbeat should be embarrassed that they're not on the ballot this year. I've generally skipped over leader-name groups, which don't seem like real groups to me (unless they do, or did like Vandermark 5).

First pass: The Bad Plus, Claudia Quintet, Medeski Martin & Wood, Microscopic Septet, Rova, Henry Threadgill Zooid.

Rising Star Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing (5), Revolutionary Snake Ensemble (3), Angles 9 (2).

First pass: Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Săo Paulo Underground, The Thing, Thumbscrew. It's not like there are no true groups of note (although most are fleeting). Some I've noticed: Angles/Angles 9, Audio One, Dawn of Midi, Digital Primitives, Farmers by Nature, Humanization 4Tet, Ideal Bread, The Kandinsky Effect, Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, Old Time Musketry, Mike Reed's People Places & Things, Sons of Kemet, Velkro, The Whammies, XY Quartet, The Young Mothers.

Big Band: Ken Vandermark's Resonance Ensemble (5), Satoko Fujii Orchestra (3), Carla Bley with Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra (2). Latter may just be one-shot, but could carry on as LMO.

First pass: Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra, Carla Bley with Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, Peter Brötzmann Tentet, Anthony Brown's Asian-American Jazz Orchestra, Either/Orchestra, Satoko Fujii Orchestra, ICP Orchestra, London Jazz Composers Orchestra, William Parker & Little Huey, Adam Rudolph's Go: Organic Orchestra, Sun Ra Arkestra, Vienna Art Orchestra.

Rising Star Big Band: Ken Vandermark's Resonance Ensemble (5), Ghost Train Orchestra (3), Howard Wiley and the Angola Project (2).

First pass: Ghost Train Orchestra, Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, Westchester Jazz Orchestra, Howard Wiley and the Angola Project. There must be some better choices somewhere.

Trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith (5), Dave Douglas (3), Steven Bernstein (2).

First pass: Ralph Alessi, Steven Bernstein, Roy Campbell Jr. [RIP], Avishai Cohen, Dave Douglas, Paolo Fresu, Tom Harrell, Kirk Knuffke, Brian Lynch, Wynton Marsalis, Rob Mazurek, Ron Miles, Nils Petter Molvaer, Nicholas Payton, Enrico Rava, Randy Sandke, Alex Sipiagin, Wadada Leo Smith, Terrell Stafford, Tomasz Stanko, Natsuki Tamura. I considered writing in Dennis Gonzalez.

Rising Star Trumpet: Taylor Ho Bynum (5), Darren Johnston (3), Matt Lavelle (2).

First pass: Joshua Berman, Taylor Ho Bynum, Philip Dizack, Amir ElSaffar, Peter Evans, Russ Johnson, Darren Johnston, Matt Lavelle, Nadje Noordhuis, Corey Wilkes, Nate Wooley. Some more names: Magnus Broo, Sei Miguel, Daniel Rosenboom, James Zollar.

Trombone: Steve Swell (5), Roswell Rudd (3), Joe Fiedler (2).

First pass: Ray Anderson, Jeb Bishop, Luis Bonilla, Steve Davis, Joe Fiedler, Curtis Fowlkes, Wycliffe Gordon, Curtis Hasselbring, George Lewis, Julius Priester, Phil Ranelin, Josh Roseman, Roswell Rudd, Steve Swell, Steve Turre, Wolter Wierbos.

Rising Star Trombone: Joe Fiedler (5), Samuel Blaser (3), Alan Ferber (2).

First pass: Mats Aleklint, Samuel Blaser, Michael Dessen, Alan Ferber, Joe Fiedler, Jacob Garchik, Marshall Gilkes, Rafi Malkiel.

Soprano Saxophone: Jane Ira Bloom (5), Evan Parker (3), Sam Newsome (2).

First pass: Bruce Ackley, Jane Ira Bloom, John Butcher, Jan Garbarek, Vinny Golia, Dave Liebman, Roscoe Mitchell, Sam Newsome, Evan Parker, Wayne Shorter, Steve Slagle, Marcus Strickland, Bob Wilber, Steve Wilson. Most of the nominees I recognize more for tenor or alto, with many post-Coltrane tenors (like Branford Marsalis and Chris Potter) featuring the soprano in (at most) one song per album. I've tended to avoid them, unless they've made something more distinctive out of their larks (Garbarek, Parker, Shorter are good examples).

Rising Star Soprano Saxophone: Mike Ellis (5), Steven Lugerner (3), Jasmine Lovell-Smith (2).

First pass: Michael Blake, Mike Ellis, Jimmy Greene, Jasmine Lovell-Smith, Steve Lugerner, Jason Robinson, Jürg Wickihalder.

Alto Saxophone: Oliver Lake (5), François Carrier (3), Henry Threadgill (2). Very competitive category, with Anthony Braxton and Steve Lehman bumped from last year's ballot.

First pass: Gary Bartz, Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Rob Brown, Francois Carrier, Steve Coleman, Marty Ehrlich, Donald Harrison, Benjamin Herman, Vincent Herring, Jon Irabagon, Sherman Irby, Darius Jones, Lee Konitz, Oliver Lake, Jeff Lederer, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Joe McPhee, Charles McPherson, Michael Moore, Ted Nash, Greg Osby, Akira Sakata, Jim Snidero, Yosvany Terry, Henry Threadgill, Bobby Watson, Steve Wilson, Miguel Zenón, John Zorn.

Rising Star Alto Saxophone: Dave Rempis (5), Greg Ward (3), Peter Van Huffel (2).

First pass: Greg Abate, Dmitri Baevsky, Andrew D'Angelo, Mike DiRubbo, Ian Hendrickson-Smith, Benjamin Herman, Peter Van Huffel, Darius Jones, Alexey Kruglov, Dave Rempis, Logan Richardson, Matana Roberts, Aram Shelton, Greg Ward. Last year wrote in Allen Lowe and John O'Gallagher, still not on the ballot. Rent Romus has also had a hot streak. Note that a bunch of top under-50 players are no longer on the Rising Star ballot, like Jon Irabagon, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and Miguel Zenón.

Tenor Saxophone: David Murray (5), Ken Vandermark (3), Houston Person (2). Also super-competitive. I figured I should add Person because he had my favorite album last year, but that meant bumping Ivo Perelman, who had nine good albums (something like that). Last year I suggested Murray was "coasting" but he came back with two of the year's best albums.

First pass: Eric Alexander, Harry Allen, JD Allen, Jerry Bergonzi, Michael Blake, Seamus Blake, Peter Brötzmann, James Carter, Anat Cohen, Joel Frahm, Jan Garbarek, George Garzone, Charles Gayle, Craig Handy, Jon Irabagon, Kidd Jordan, Charles Lloyd, Joe Lovano, Tony Malaby, Branford Marsalis, Donny McCaslin, Joe McPhee, David Murray, Ted Nash, Larry Ochs, Evan Parker, Ivo Perelman, Houston Person, Odean Pope, Chris Potter, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, Wayne Shorter, Chris Speed, Ken Vandermark, Tim Warfield, Ernie Watts. Aside from the above, some guys (mostly 50+) who didn't make the ballot: Juhani Aaltonen, Iain Ballamy, Gato Barbieri [RIP], Ernest Dawkins, Ellery Eskelin, Ricky Ford, Rich Halley, Scott Hamilton, Billy Harper, Dave Liebman, Bob Rockwell, Archie Shepp, Andy Sheppard, Tommy Smith (50), Lew Tabackin, Bennie Wallace.

Rising Star Tenor Saxophone: Ellery Eskelin (5), Rodrigo Amado (3), James Brandon Lewis (2).

First pass: Geof Bradfield, Abraham Burton, Ellery Eskelin, Keefe Jackson, James Brandon Lewis, Tivon Pennicott, Noah Preminger, Grant Stewart, Marcus Strickland, Kamasi Washington, Howard Wiley.

Baritone Saxophone: Brian Landrus (5), Howard Johnson (3), Hamiet Bluiett (2).

First pass: Tim Berne, Hamiet Bluiett, James Carter, Ronnie Cuber, Claire Daly, Vinny Golia, Mats Gustafsson, Howard Johnson, Brian Landrus, Scott Robinson, Gary Smulyan, John Surman, Ken Vandermark.

Rising Star Baritone Saxophone: Gebhard Ullmann (5), Mikko Innanen (3), Josh Sinton (2).

First pass: Charles Evans, Alex Harding, Mikko Innanen, Chad Makela, Adam Schroeder, Josh Sinton, Gebhard Ullmann.

Clarinet: Michael Moore (5), Marty Ehrlich (3), Ben Goldberg (2).

First pass: Andy Biskin, Don Byron, Evan Christopher, Anat Cohen, Eddie Daniels, Marty Ehrlich, Ben Goldberg, David Krakauer, Michael Moore, Ken Peplowski, Michel Portal, Perry Robinson, Ned Rothenberg, Louis Sclavis, Chris Speed, Jason Stein, Ken Vandermark, Bob Wilber.

Rising Star Clarinet: Waclaw Zimpel (5), Avram Fefer (3), Mort Weiss (2).

First pass: Joachim Badenhorst, Avram Fefer, Darryl Harper, François Houle, Rudi Mahall, Ned Rothenberg, Aram Shelton, Chris Speed, Gebhard Ullmann. Mort Weiss.

Flute: Juhani Aaltonen (5), Nicole Mitchell (3), Henry Threadgill (2).

First pass: Juhani Aaltonen, Robert Dick, Nicole Mitchell, Roscoe Mitchell, James Newton, Lew Tabackin, Henry Threadgill, Dave Valentin.

Rising Star Flute: Kali Z. Fasteau (5), except that she's older than I am, plays at least six instruments more often, and prefers third world variants to the classical instrument. Still, I can't place 14 (of 17) nominees.

First pass: Kali Z. Fasteau, no one else (maybe Steve Adams).

Piano: Matthew Shipp (5), Satoko Fujii (3) Irčne Schweizer (2).

First pass: Geri Allen, Kenny Barron, George Cables, Uri Caine, Bill Charlap, Cyrus Chestnut, Gerald Clayton, Marilyn Crispell, Satoko Fujii, David Hazeltine, Fred Hersch, Dick Hyman, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ethan Iverson, Vijay Iyer, Ahmad Jamal, Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Myra Melford, -Misha Mengelberg, Jason Moran, Enrico Pieranunzi, Renee Rosnes, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Matthew Shipp, Bobo Stenson, Craig Taborn, Cecil Taylor, Chucho Valdes, Randy Weston, Denny Zeitlin.

Rising Star Piano: Kris Davis (5), Nik Bärtsch (3), Peter Zak (2).

First pass: Ehud Asherie, Nik Bartsch, George Colligan, Kris Davis, Benoit Delbecq, Orrin Evans, Danny Fox, Tord Gustavsen, Russ Lossing, Matt Mitchell, Aaron Parks, Peter Zak.

Electronic Keyboard: Jamie Saft (5), Soren Kjaegaard (3), George Colligan (2).

First pass: Nik Bärtsch, Django Bates, Uri Caine, George Colligan, Soren Kjaegaard, John Medeski, Jamie Saft, Matthew Shipp, Craig Taborn, Gary Versace.

Rising Star Electronic Keyboard: Russ Lossing (5), Kit Downes (3), Zaccai Curtis (2).

First pass: -Nik Bartsch, Zaccai Curtis, Kit Downes, Russ Lossing, Rob Mazurek, Bugge Wesseltoft.

Organ: Gary Versace (5), John Medeski (3), Brian Charette (2).

First pass: Carla Bley, Brian Charette, Joey DeFrancesco, Jared Gold, Larry Goldings, Mike LeDonne, John Medeski, Jamie Saft, Gary Versace.

Rising Star Organ: Alexander Hawkins (5), Vince Seneri (3), Wayne Peet (2).

First pass: Pat Bianchi, Alexander Hawkins, Wayne Peet, Vince Seneri.

Guitar: Mary Halvorson (5), Marc Ribot (3), Joe Morris (2).

First pass: Rez Abbasi, John Abercrombie, Howard Alden, Peter Bernstein, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, Bill Frisell, Mary Halvorson, Charlie Hunter, Vic Juris, Romero Lubambo, Russell Malone, John McLaughlin, Joe Morris, -Jeff Parker, Bucky Pizzarelli, Marc Ribot, Terje Rypdal, John Scofield, Dave Stryker, James Blood Ulmer.

Rising Star Guitar: Samo Salamon (5), Jon Lundbom (3), Eric Hofbauer (2).

First pass: Will Bernard, Raoul Bjorkenheim, Paul Bollenback, Jakob Bro, -Liberty Ellman, Eric Hofbauer, Jon Lundbom, Pete McCann, Michael Musillami, Anders Nilsson, Jeff Parker, Brandon Seabrook, Jacob Young. I wrote Salamon in last year, again this year.

Bass: William Parker (5), Reggie Workman (3), Peter Washington (2). I wrote in Ken Filiano last year, and also voted for John Hébert.

First pass: Ben Allison, Arild Andersen, Omer Avital, Michael Bisio, Ron Carter, Avishai Cohen, Greg Cohen, Scott Colley, Stephan Crump, Mark Dresser, Ray Drummond, Michael Formanek, Drew Gress, Barry Guy, John Hébert, Mark Helias, Dave Holland, Marc Johnson, Joëlle Léandre, Christian McBride, William Parker, Gary Peacock, Eric Revis, Peter Washington, Reggie Workman.

Rising Star Bass: Moppa Elliott (5), Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten (3), Thomas Morgan (2).

First pass: Joshua Abrams, Pablo Aslan, Harrison Bankhead, Michael Bates, Carlos Bica, Greg Cohen, John Edwards, Moppa Elliott, Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten, Devin Hoff, Adam Lane, Joelle Leandre, Lisa Mezzacappa, Thomas Morgan, Eric Revis, Katie Thiroux, Per Zanussi.

Electric Bass: Steve Swallow (5), Jamaaladeen Tacuma (3). I rarely notice who plays electric vs. acoustic, but I'm pretty sure most of the names I recognize here play much more acoustic than electric.

First pass: Avishai Cohen, Bob Cranshaw [RIP], Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, Matthew Garrison, James Genus, Drew Gress, John Patitucci, Steve Swallow, Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Lots of double bassists have picked up the bass guitar, but I've found it hard to track and evaluate them.

Rising Star Electric Bass: Chris Morrissey (5), Stomu Takeishi (3), Nate McBride (2).

First pass: Tommy Babin, Melvin Gibbs, Nate McBride, Chris Morrissey, Stomu Takeishi.

Violin: Jason Kao Hwang (5), Jenny Scheinman (3), Charles Burnham (2).

First pass: Charles Burnham, Regina Carter, Jeff Gauthier, Jason Kao Hwang, Eyvind Kang, Carla Kihlstedt, Didier Lockwood, Mat Maneri, Jenny Scheinman, Carlos Zingaro.

Rising Star Violin: Szilard Mezei (5), Jesse Zubot (3), Aaron Weinstein (2).

First pass: Sarah Bernstein, Szilard Mezei, Diane Monroe, Mary Oliver, Rob Thomas, Aaron Weinstein, Jesse Zubot.

Drums: Andrew Cyrille (5), Gerry Hemingway (3), Gerald Cleaver (2).

First pass: Barry Altschul, Joey Baron, Han Bennink, Jim Black, Michael Carvin, Gerald Cleaver, Andrew Cyrille, Jack DeJohnette, Hamid Drake, Peter Erskine, Joe Farnsworth, Billy Hart, Gerry Hemingway, John Hollenbeck, Dave King, Paul Lovens, Billy Martin, Lewis Nash, Bobby Previte, Rudy Royston, Tyshawn Sorey, Bill Stewart, Nasheet Waits, Kenny Washington, Matt Wilson.

Rising Star Drums: Paal Nilssen-Love (5), Tim Daisy (3), Tomas Fujiwara (2). I wrote Tom Rainey in last year. He really should be on the main ballot.

First pass: Scott Amendola, Tim Daisy, Joe Farnsworth, Tomas Fujiwara, Dave King, Allison Miller, Paal Nilssen-Love, Stefan Pasborg, Mike Reed, Frank Rosaly, Ches Smith, Tyshawn Sorey, Satoshi Takeishi, Chad Taylor, Dan Weiss.

Percussion: Han Bennink (5), Hamid Drake (3), Adam Rudolph (2).

First pass: Han Bennink, Mino Cinelu, Hamid Drake, Kahil El'Zabar, Trilok Gurtu, Zakir Hussain, Susie Ibarra, Marilyn Mazur, Famoudou Don Moye, Leon Parker, Adam Rudolph, Warren Smith, Dan Weiss, Michael Zerang.

Rising Star Percussion: Kevin Diehl (5), Harris Eisenstadt (3), Ravish Momin (2).

First pass: Kevin Diehl, Harris Eisenstadt, Lukas Ligeti, Ravish Momin, Andi Pupato, Ches Smith, Warren Smith, Satoshi Takeishi, Okay Temiz.

Vibraphone: Karl Berger (5), Jason Adasiewicz (3), Warren Smith (2).

First pass: Jason Adasiewicz, Mulatu Astatke, Karl Berger, Gunter Hampel, Bobby Hutcherson [RIP], Khan Jamal, Terry Gibbs, Joe Locke, Mike Mainieri, Matt Moran, Steve Nelson, Kevin Norton, Warren Smith, Kenny Wollesen.

Rising Star Vibes: Kevin Norton (5), Behn Gillece (3).

First pass: Behn Gillece, Kevin Norton. They kicked most of the people I'd been selecting off, including some old-timers like Khan Jamal (age 71).

Miscellaneous Instrument: Erik Friedlander (cello) (5), Gary Versace (accordion) (3), Bob Stewart (tuba) (2).

First pass: Rabih Abou Khalil (oud), Ralph Carney (slide clarinet), Edmar Castaneda (Colombian harp), Joseph Daley (tuba), Erik Friedlander (cello), Richard Galliano (accordion), Howard Johnson (tuba), Guy Klucevsek (accordion), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Grégoire Maret (harmonica), Myra Melford (harmonium), David Murray (bass clarinet), Ernst Reijseger (cello), Marcus Rojas (tuba), Colin Stetson (bass sax), Bob Stewart (tuba), Gebhard Ullmann (bass clarinet), Gary Versace (accordion).

Rising Star Miscellaneous Instrument: Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello) (5), Tomeka Reid (cello) (3), Andrea Parkins (accordion) (2).

First pass: Kyle Bruckmann (oboe), Ben Goldberg (contra alto clarinet), Okkyung Lee (cello), Peggy Lee (cello), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet), Andrea Parkins (accordion), Tomeka Reid (cello), Ernst Reijseger (cello), Marcus Rojas (tuba), Brandon Seabrook (banjo), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Colin Stetson (bass sax).

Female Vocalist: Catherine Russell (5), Sheila Jordan (3), Fay Victor (2).

First pass: Dee Alexander, Patricia Barber, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jay Clayton, Leena Conquest, Roberta Gambarini, Sheila Jordan, Stacey Kent, Diana Krall, René Marie, Barbara Morrison, Dianne Reeves, Catherine Russell, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Mary Stallings, Fay Victor, Cassandra Wilson.

Rising Star Female Vocalist: Lisa Sokolov (5), Nicki Parrott (3), Heather Masse (2).

First pass: Amy Allison, Yaala Ballin, Fay Claassen, Lorraine Feather, Champian Fulton, Heather Masse, Nellie McKay, Nicki Parrott, Lisa Sokolov, Fay Victor, Andrea Wolper.

Male Vocalist: Freddy Cole (5), James Blood Ulmer (3), Ed Reed (2).

First pass: Mose Allison [RIP], Tony Bennett, Theo Bleckmann, Freddy Cole, Bob Dorough, Giacomo Gates, Kevin Mahogany, Ed Reed, James Blood Ulmer, Kenny Washington.

Rising Star Male Vocalist: Jamie Davis (5), Mark Winkler (3), Pete McGuinness (2).

First pass: Jamie Davis, Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Pete McGuinness, Frank Senior, Mark Winkler.

Composer: Carla Bley (5), John Zorn (3), Steve Lehman (2).

First pass: Ben Allison, Carla Bley, Moppa Elliott, Dave Holland, John Hollenbeck, Steve Lehman, Rob Mazurek, Ted Nash, Wayne Shorter, Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, John Zorn.

Rising Star Composer: Mike Reed (5), Tyshawn Sorey (3), Anthony Branker (2).

First pass: Anthony Branker, Moppa Elliott, Ben Goldberg, Steve Lehman, Hafez Modirzadeh, Mike Reed, Jenny Scheinman, Marcus Shelby, Tyshawn Sorey, Howard Wiley. Wrote Adam Lane in last year.

Arranger: Steven Bernstein (5), John Hollenbeck (3), Carla Bley (2).

First pass: Darcy James Argue, Steven Bernstein, Carla Bley, John Hollenbeck, Misha Mengelberg, Ted Nash, William Parker, Adam Rudolph, Ryan Truesdell, John Zorn..

Rising Star Arranger: Michael Bates (5), David Weiss (3), Joan Stiles (2).

First pass: Ben Allison, Michael Bates, Uri Caine, Brian Carpenter, Marcus Shelby, Joan Stiles, David Weiss.

Record Label: Clean Feed (5), Intakt (3), Pi Recordings (2).

First pass: Arbors, AUM Fidelity, Clean Feed, Cuneiform, Delmark, ECM, Enja, Fresh Sound New Talent, Greenleaf Music, HatHut, HighNote, Intakt, NoBusiness, Pi, Random Act, RogueArt, SteepleChase, Thirsty Ear, TUM, Tzadik. I'd write in Leo or NotTwo if only they serviced me. Most missed in my mailbox: Arbors, Cuneiform. Still, my votes correlate pretty well with my highest-rated albums last year.

Producer: Joe Fields (5), John Zorn (3), Don Was (2).

First pass: Matt Baltisaris, Joe Fields, Mark Free, Don Was, Nils Winther, John Zorn.

Rising Star Producer: John Corbett (5), Taylor Ho Bynum (3), Leo Feigin (2).

First pass: Taylor Ho Bynum, John Corbett, Leo Feigin, John Hollenbeck, Bruno Johnson, Seth Rosner/Yulun Wang, Spike Wilner/Ben Rubin.

Blues Artist or Group: Maria Muldaur (5), Leo Welch (3), Bobby Rush (2).

First pass: Marcia Ball, Lurrie Bell, Eric Bibb, Guy Davis, Sue Foley, Buddy Guy, -Corey Harris, Taj Mahal, Duke Robillard, Bobby Rush, Otis Taylor, James Blood Ulmer. I've written Muldaur in several times.

Blues Album (April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017): Dave Bromberg Band, The Blues, the Whole Blues and Nothing but the Blues (Red House) (5); Fantastic Negrito, The Last Days of Oakland (Naive) (3); The Rolling Stones, Blue & Lonesome (Interscope) (2). None of these cracked A- grades. In fact, they were the only ones (of 63) nominated blues records I heard.

Beyond Artist of Group: Leonard Cohen (5), Chance the Rapper (3), A Tribe Called Quest (2).

First pass: A Tribe Called Quest, Anderson .Paak, Laurie Anderson, Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, Leonard Cohen [RIP], D'Angelo, Dr. John, Brian Eno, Flying Lotus, Aretha Franklin, Grimes, Jamie XX, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kendrick Lamar, Nellie McKay, Janelle Monáe, Ashley Monroe, Mountain Goats, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Frank Ocean, Prince [RIP], Bonnie Raitt, Rihanna, The Roots, Run the Jewels, Sufjan Stevens, Richard Thompson, Tinariwen, Tom Waits, Kanye West, Lucinda Williams, Neil Young.

Beyond Album (April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015): Brandy Clark, Big Day in a Small Town (Warner Bros. Nashville) (5); Drive-By Truckers, American Band (ATO) (3); Parquet Courts, Human Performance (Rough Trade) (2). This is limited to their ballot, and I just mechanically went down my 2016 non-jazz list for these picks (numbers 2, 3, and 6, which is much higher than what I came up with last year) Top 2017 release so far is Run the Jewels 3 -- probably lower, but not totally sure.

Other records on the ballot that I've heard (49 out of 79 total, 62.0%). Looks like my share declines the longer the ballot, as I had 54.4% last year of 90, but 81.0% of 58 the year before:

  • Beyoncé, Lemonade (Columbia) [A-]
  • Blood Orange, Freetown Sound (Domino) [A-]
  • Danny Brown, Atrocity Exhibition (Warp) [A-]
  • Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book (self-released) [A-]
  • Brandy Clark, Big Day in a Small Town (Warner Bros. Nashville) [A-]
  • Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker (Columbia) [A-]
  • Drive-By Truckers, American Band (ATO) [A-]
  • Robbie Fulks, Upland Stories (Bloodshot) [A-]
  • Miranda Lambert, The Weight Of These Wings (RCA) [A-]
  • Parquet Courts, Human Performance (Rough Trade) [A-]
  • Bonnie Raitt, Dig In Deep (Redwing) [A-]
  • Run the Jewels, Run The Jewels 3 (self-released) [A-]
  • Tinariwen, Elwan (Anti/Epitaph -17) [A-]
  • A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic/Sony) [A-]
  • Car Seat Headrest, Teens Of Denial (Matador) [***]
  • Shirley Collins, Lodestar (Domino) [***]
  • Angel Olsen, My Woman (Jagjaguwar) [***]
  • Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor's Guide to Earth (Atlantic) [***]
  • Common, Black America Again (Def Jam) [**]
  • Horse Lords, Interventions (Northern Spy) [**]
  • Noname, Telefone (self-released) [**]
  • Frank Ocean, Blonde (Boys Don't Cry) [**]
  • Solange, A Seat At The Table (Saint/Columbia) [**]
  • Allen Toussaint, American Tunes (Nonesuch) [**]
  • Anohni, Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian) [*]
  • Aphex Twin, Cheetah (Warp) [*]
  • Bon Iver, 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar) [*]
  • Charles Bradley, Changes (Daptone) [*]
  • Clipping., Splendor & Misery (Sub Pop) [*]
  • Brian Eno, The Ship (Warp) [*]
  • Childish Gambino, "Awaken, My Love!" (Glassnote) [*]
  • Death Grips, Bottomless Pit (Harvest) [*]
  • Dinosaur Jr., Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (Jagjaguwar) [*]
  • Drake, Views (Cash Money) [*]
  • Mitski, Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans) [*]
  • Xenia Rubinos, Black Terry Cat (Epitaph) [*]
  • Sampha, Process (Young Turks -17) [*]
  • Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger (Concord) [*]
  • Adia Victoria, Beyond the Bloodhounds (Atlantic) [*]
  • Wilco, Wilco Schmilco (dBpm) [*]
  • Jamila Woods, HEAVN (self-released) [*]
  • The Avalanches, Wildflower (Astralwerks) [B]
  • William Bell, This Is Where I Live (Stax) [B]
  • Lady Gaga, Joanne (Insomniac/Interscope) [B]
  • Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool (XL) [B]
  • Kandace Springs, Soul Eyes (Blue Note) [B]
  • Badbadnotgood, IV (Innovative Leisure) [B-]
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree (Bad Seeds) [B-]
  • Whitney, Light Upon the Like (Secretly Canadian) [B-]

Records on the ballot that I haven't heard (30/79, 38.0%):

  • Jeff Beck, Hailer (Atco)
  • Andrew Bird, Are You Serious (Loma Vista)
  • Bo-Keys, Heartaches by the Number (Omnivore)
  • Boulevard, Groove! (Captured Tracks)
  • Bob Dylan, Fallen Angels (Columbia)
  • Brian Eno, Reflection (Warp -17)
  • Foxygen, Hang (Jagjaguwar -17)
  • Rhiannon Giddens, Freedom Highway (Nonesuch -17)
  • Gonjasufi, Callus (Warp)
  • José James, Love in a Time of Madness (Blue Note -17)
  • Jonwayne, Rap Album Two (The Order Label -17)
  • Marcus King Band, Marcus King Band (Fantasy)
  • John Legend, Darkness And Light (Columbia)
  • Harvey Mandel, Snake Pit (Tompkins Square)
  • Migos, Culture (300 -17)
  • Orkesta Mendoza, Vamos A Guarachar (Glitterbeat)
  • Nikolett Pankovits, Magia (Ninwood Music)
  • Corinne Bailey Rae, The Heart Speaks in Whispers (Virgin)
  • Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Got Soul (Masterworks -17)
  • Royal Southern Brotherhood, The Royal Gospel (Ruf)
  • Colin Stetson, Sorrow: A Reimagining of Gorecki's 3rd Symphony (52Hz)
  • Becca Stevens, Regina (GroundUP -17)
  • Sting, 57th and 9th (A&M/Interscope)
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band, Live From the Fox Oakland (Fantasy)
  • Thundercat, Drunk (Brainfeeder -17)
  • Wayne Toups, Wayne Toups (Malaco)
  • Bob Weir, Blue Mountain (Legacy/Columbia)
  • Day of the Dead (4AD)
  • La La Land: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Interscope)
  • The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: Celebrating Mac & His Music (Concord)

Letter

After completing the poll, I wrote the following letter to Bobby Read at Downbeat (the invitation asked for suggestions, so I figured, why not?):

I voted yesterday. Took me 6-8 hours, not counting some additional editing to my notes today. And I got tired midway through and wound up mostly repeating last year's votes on the back stretch.

I have several suggestions. One would be to eliminate the categories for electric keyboards and electric bass (or maybe merge keyboards in with organ). I keep extensive notes on jazz musicians but rarely have any idea who plays electric vs. acoustic keyboards/bass -- although I'd guess the acoustic categories amount for more than 90%. I may have 30 "first pass" pianists vs. 5 for electric keyboards (I voted for Jamie Saft in the latter category; he's actually a pretty adventurous acoustic piano player, but wouldn't be in my top 50 there).

I also wouldn't mind percussion being merged into drums (unless you wanted to do an explicit Latin/World Percussion category). I can remember when Percussion was dominated by congaleros (plus the occasional Indian or African), but that hasn't been the case for some time now.

I'd also move flute to miscellaneous instrument, although the latter could be broken up into broad classes (strings, winds/horns, percussion -- the latter might be what you're looking for under Percussion).

Another perennial gripe I have is the 3-month offset on albums. Why not stick with the calendar and just let us enjoy the extra three months to let things sink in? As it is you invariably miss lots more first-quarter albums, and you send the ballot requests out before the quartet has even ended. Moreover, for write-ins we have to look up release month as well as year. I tabulate the ballot results for Francis Davis' poll, so I know damn good and well that nobody's that good with dates. I'd do the same thing with the Readers Poll's 6-month offset. It only makes sense that readers would take longer to get to records than critics. Would also be nice to have two views of the same dataset.

Finally, my most important suggestion is that your HOF is adding names too slowly, with too deep a backlog. (The Veterans Committee helps a bit there, but introduces its own problems -- too much to go into at the moment. By the way, I'd be willing to vote there if you're interested.) I think the simplest thing you can do to fix the HOF problem would be to induct the top living and the top dead vote getter each time out, so you get four names per year, and a little more orderly progression. (it seems like you had about a six-year stretch where Lee Konitz got nudged out each year by someone who died in the previous year -- that was pretty unfair all around.) I'm not looking for something as expansive as the R&R HOF, but you're nowhere near getting down to whatever the jazz equivalents of Cheap Trick and Steve Miller are. You wouldn't even have to split the ballot -- just apply the rule. You could even do that this year.

Post-Poll Comments

Downbeat Readers Poll