Downbeat Critics Poll: 2012

This is the second year I've voted in Downbeat's Critics Poll. As I went through their electronic ballot, I tried to take notes below. In most cases this consists of going through their suggestions and noting anyone who seems plausible, then going through my own previous notes and database and adding anyone who seems equally deserving. Then I pick three, and sometimes try to justify that pick. Or all to often I gripe about the category, the suggested ballot, the sometimes odd decisions about who to list in the "Rising Star" section. The ballot process inevitably takes more than a day, and can get quite painful. I hear they give voters a T-shirt for their trouble, but they didn't send me one last year.

Who I voted for. Write-ins are in bold-italics; plain bold selected from their ballot:

Hall of Fame: Lee Konitz (5), George Russell (4), Don Pullen (1) -- same as last time. First pass: on ballot I considered voting for: Abdullah Ibrahim, Anthony Braxton, Barney Bigard, Bing Crosby, Buck Clayton, Bud Freeman, Bud Shank, Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, Don Pullen, Gene Ammons, George Russell, Herbie Nichols, Illinois Jacquet, Lee Konitz, Mildred Bailey, Paul Bley, Paul Motian, Professor Longhair, Shelly Manne, Sonny Stitt, Tommy Flanagan.

For what it's worth, others on the ballot (notation: 3 = in, but when?; 2 = maybe; 1 = not really; 0 = who are you kidding?): Airto Moreira (1), Al DiMeola (0), B.B. King (2), Benny Golson (2), Billy Higgins (2), Bob Brookmeyer (2), Booker Little (1), Bucky Pizzarelli (2), Buddy DeFranco (2), Bunny Berigan (1), Carmen McRae (2), Charles Lloyd (2), Chico Hamilton (1), Chu Berry (1), Cootie Williams (2), Derek Bailey (2), Doc Cheatham (1), Don Ellis (1), Don Grolnick (2), Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis (2), Eddie Condon (3), Eddie Harris (2), Eddie Jefferson (0), Esbjorn Svenson (1), Eubie Blake (1), Fred Anderson (3), Grant Green (3), Hank Mobley (3), Harry James (1), Jay McShann (1), Jimmy Giuffre (3), Joe Morello (1), Joe Williams (2), Joe Zawinul (1, but he's in so he shouldn't be here), John McLaughlin (3), Jon Hendricks (1), Les Paul (1), Lightnin' Hopkins (2), Louie Bellson (2), Machito (2), Mario Bauza (2), Mark Murphy (0), Melba Liston (1), Muddy Waters (2), Oliver Nelson (3), Pat Martino (1), Pat Metheny (1), Paul Gonsalves (2), Phil Woods (3), Randy Weston (3), Red Holloway (0), Red Mitchell (1), Red Norvo (2), Rex Stewart (2), Robert Johnson (1), Ron Carter (2), Scott LaFaro (1), Shirley Horn (2), Slide Hampton (1), Stuff Smith (2), T-Bone Walker (1), The Four Freshmen (0), Tito Puente (3), Von Freeman (2), Wilbur Ware (1). I'm generally disinclined to vote for blues players, although Downbeat considers them part of their turf. (On the other hand, the only one they've voted in was Bessie Smith, so why start now? Given that Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, Lonnie Johnson, Memphis Minnie, Howlin' Wolf, and either Sonny Boy Williamson can't make the ballot, there's no chance of Downbeat ever having a credible blues HOF roster.)

Not on the ballot, but should be (and dead and done, so they're as ready as they'll ever be): Nat Adderley, Billy Bang, Ruby Braff, Don Byas, Cab Calloway, Sid Catlett, June Christy, Arnett Cobb, Vic Dickenson, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Art Farmer, Lars Gullin, Al Haig, Julius Hemphill, John Hicks, Budd Johnson, Leroy Jenkins, Louis Jordan, Wynton Kelly, Krzysztof Komeda, Peter Kowald, George Lewis [the New Orleans clarinetist], Louis Prima, Don Redman, Sam Rivers, Charlie Rouse, Jimmy Rowles, Jimmy Rushing, Sonny Sharrock, Horace Tapscott, Lucky Thompson, Stanley Turrentine, Mal Waldron, Dinah Washington, Barney Wilen.

Living players not on the ballot who could die tomorrow and should waltz right in: Marilyn Crispell, Dave Douglas, Jim Hall, Scott Hamilton, Keith Jarrett, Sheila Jordan, Joe Lovano, Marian McPartland, Joe McPhee, Misha Mengelberg, David Murray, Evan Parker, William Parker, Houston Person, Roswell Rudd, Pharoah Sanders, Alex von Schlippenbach, Irène Schweizer, Archie Shepp, Wadada Leo Smith, Tomasz Stanko, Ken Vandermark, David S. Ware, Gerald Wilson, John Zorn. Obviously, this list could be expanded, but not even Ellington wanted to be too famous too soon.

Jazz Artist: James Carter (5), John Zorn (3), Wadada Leo Smith (2). First pass: Anthony Braxton, Bill Frisell, Dave Douglas, Ken Vandermark, Miguel Zenón, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Steven Bernstein, Vijay Iyer, William Parker. I really dislike this category, in large part because it can mean so many things. Last time I went with Parker, Vandermark, and Braxton, so general eminence and sustained production. This year I looked for artists with multiple high-rated records. For that matter, could have written in Joe McPhee, or Evan Parker.

Rising Star -- Jazz Artist: Steve Lehman (5), Marcus Strickland (3), John Hébert (2). First pass: Ben Allison, John Hollenbeck, Mary Halvorson, Mike Reed, Nasheet Waits, Peter Evans, Ted Nash. (Dropped from ballot, presumably because they're big stars now: Anat Cohen, Matt Wilson, Miguel Zenón, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Vijay Iyer.) Trying to stay young with the write-ins, but otherwise I don't really know what I'm doing here.

Jazz Album of the Year (April 1, 2011-March 31, 2012): The year-end offset makes it a lot of extra work to do write-ins. For instance, the best jazz record of 2012 thus far is Steve Lehman's Dialect Fluorescent (Pi) -- not on their ballot even though the release date is March 27, 2012. It should be eligible, but isn't on their radar. On the other hand, my favorite 2011 jazz record was Rich Halley's Children of the Blue Supermarket, ineligible because it was released on Feb. 15, 2011 (not that they would have nominated it anyway). Accordingly, I decided to suck it in and vote for records on their ballot:

  1. Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: Sotho Blue (Sunnyside) (5)
  2. David Murray Cuban Ensemble: Plays Nat King Cole: En Español (Motéma) (3)
  3. Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 2 (Doxy/Emarcy) (2)

Their ballot contains 148 records. Of those, I grade 14 A-, 25 ***, 29 **, 25 *, 2 B, 1 B-; one is still ungraded, leaving 51 I haven't heard. The rest of the A-list albums on their ballot:

  • Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination: Route De Freres (Tum)
  • Charles Lloyd/Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert (ECM)
  • Darius Jones Trio: Big Gurl (Smell My Dream) (AUM Fidelity)
  • David S. Ware: Planetary Unknown (AUM Fidelity)
  • James Carter Organ Trio: At the Crossroads (Emarcy)
  • Jenny Scheinman: Mischief & Mayhem (Jenny Scheinman)
  • Marcus Strickland: Triumph of the Heavy, Vol. 1 & 2 (Strick)
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa: Samdhi (ACT)
  • Side A: A New Margin (Clean Feed)
  • Tyshawn Sorey: Oblique-I (Pi)
  • Vijay Iyer Trio: Accelerando (ACT)

The albums on their ballot that I haven't heard:

  • Adam Rudolph/Go: Organic Orchestra: Can You Imagine the Sound of a Dream (Meta)
  • Aki Takase & Han Bennink: Two for Two (Intakt)
  • Augusti Fernández & Joe Morris: Ambrosia (Riti)
  • Benny Green: Source (Jazz Legacy)
  • Bob James & Keiko Matsui: Altair & Vega (EOne)
  • Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo: Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music)
  • Chick Corea: The Continents (Deutsch Grammophon)
  • Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra: Treelines (Justin Time)
  • Corea, Clarke & White: Forever (Concord)
  • Dado Maroni Trio: Live in Beverly Hills (Resonance)
  • Dave Grusin: An Evening with Dave Grusin (Heads Up)
  • David Binney: Barefoot Town (Criss Cross)
  • David S. Ware: Organica (Solo Saxophones, Vol. 2) (AUM Fidelity)
  • Dominick Farinacci: Dawn of Goodbye (E1)
  • Eddie Daniels/Roger Kellaway: Live at the Library of Congress (IPO)
  • Eric Reed: Something Beautiful (WJ3)
  • Gary Husband: Dirty & Beautiful Volume 1 (Abstract Logix)
  • Geri Allen Trio Plus 3: Celebrating Mary Lou Williams (Intakt)
  • Gojogo: 28,000 Days (Porto Franco)
  • Gonzalo Rubulcaba: FE ... Faith (5Passion)
  • Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band: That's How We Roll (Telarc)
  • Gregory Porter: Be Good (Motéma)
  • Gregory Tardy: Monuments (Steeplechase)
  • Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Håkon Kornstad: Mitt Hjerte Altid Vanker-1 (Compunctio)
  • Jack DeJohnette: Sound Travels (E1)
  • Jacques Loussier Trio: Schumann/Kinderszenen (Telarc)
  • Jason Palmer: Here Today (Steeplechase)
  • John Escreet: Exception To The Rule (Criss Cross)
  • John Santos and El Coro Folklórico Kindembo: La Esperanza (Machete)
  • John Santos Sextet: Filosofía Caribeña, Vol. 1 (Machete Music)
  • Judy Wexler: Under A Painted Sky (JazzEd Media)
  • Karrin Allyson: 'Round Midnight (Concord)
  • Kirk Whalum: Romance Language (Rendezvous)
  • Lol Coxhill: Instant Replay (Nato)
  • Matt Nelson Trio: Nostalgiamaniac (Chicago Sessions)
  • Motian Sickness: The Music of Paul Motian: For the Love of Sarah (Grizzley)
  • Paul McCartney: Kisses on the Bottom (Hear Music/Concord)
  • Paul van Kamenade: Close Enough (Kemo)
  • Peter Schärli Trio featuring Ithmara Koorax: O Grande Amor (TCB)
  • Ralph Peterson Unity Project: Outer Reaches (Onyx)
  • Samuel Blasser: Consort in Motion (Kind of Blue)
  • São Paulo Underground: Três Cabeças Loucuras (Cuneiform)
  • Stanley Jordan: Friends (Mack Avenue)
  • Ta Lam 11: Mingus! (Jazzwerkstatt)
  • The Claudia Quintet + 1: What Is The Beautiful (Cuneiform)
  • The Spanish Donkey: XYX (Northern Spy)
  • Tigran: A Fable (Verve)
  • Tony Bennett: Duets II (Columbia)
  • Trio Dulce Vita: Amarcord (Jazzwerkstatt)
  • Trio M: The Guest House (Enja/Yellow Bird)
  • Trombone Shorty: For True (Verve Forecast)

There's certainly stuff there that I wish I had heard -- Trio M would be on the top of my list, followed by anything on Intakt, Jazzwerkstatt, or Steeplechase. On the other hand, let me note the following A- (or better) records on my 2011-12 lists (including the ineligible first three months of 2011) that failed to get nominated (I'll just alphabetize them to keep from hurting my brain):

  • Juhani Aaltonen and Heikki Sarmanto: Conversations (TUM, 2CD)
  • Muhal Richard Abrams: SoundDance (Pi)
  • Ehud Asherie with Harry Allen: Upper West Side (Posi-Tone)
  • Andrew Atkinson Quartet: Live: Keep Looking Forward (self-released)
  • Available Jelly: Plushlok, Baarle-Nassau, Set 1 (Ramboy)
  • Yaala Ballin: On the Road (Gallery)
  • Harrison Bankhead Sextet: Morning Sun Harvest Moon (Engine)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Convergence (Savant)
  • The Chris Byars Octet: Lucky Strikes Again (SteepleChase)
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: In Motion (Leo)
  • Brian Charette: Learning to Count (SteepleChase)
  • Alexis Cuadrado: Noneto Ibérico (Bju'ecords)
  • Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Prairie Prophet (Delmark)
  • De Nazaten & James Carter: For Now (Strotbrocck)
  • Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade: Brain Dance (Cuneiform)
  • Mathias Eick: Skala (ECM)
  • Eliane Elias: Light My Fire (Concord)
  • Ellery Eskelin: New York (Prime Source)
  • FAB Trio: History of Jazz in Reverse (TUM)
  • Avram Fefer/Eric Revis/Chad Taylor: Eliyahu (Not Two)
  • Joe Fiedler Trio: Sacred Chrome Orb (YSL)
  • Jake Fryer/Bud Shank Quartet: In Good Company (Capri)
  • Charles Gayle Trio: Streets (Northern Spy)
  • Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson: Live at the South Bank (Smalltown Superjazz)
  • Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Riptide (Clean Feed)
  • Holshouser, Bennink & Moore: Live in NYC (Ramboy)
  • Honey Ear Trio: Steampunk Serenade (Foxhaven)
  • Inzinzac: Inzinzac (High Two)
  • Matt Lavelle: Goodbye New York, Hello World (Musicnow)
  • Jerry Leake & Randy Roos: Cubist Live (Rhombus Publishing)
  • Steve Lehman Trio: Dialect Fluorescent (Pi)
  • Lim: With Marc Ducret (Kopasetic)
  • Luis Lopes: Lisbon Berlin Trio (Clean Feed)
  • Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (Music & Arts)
  • Maïkotron Unit: Ex-Voto (Jazz From Rant)
  • Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Play the Blues (Reprise)
  • Joe McPhee/Michael Zerang: Creole Gardens (A New Orleans Song) (NoBusiness)
  • Moon Hotel Lounge Project: Into the Ojalá (Frosty Cordial)
  • The New Trio [Günter Baby Sommer/Floros Floridis/Akira Ando]: Melting Game (Jazzwerkstatt)
  • Evan Parker/Wes Neal/Joe Sorbara: At Somewhere There (Barnyard)
  • Deborah Pearl: Souvenir of You: New Lyrics to Benny Carter Classics (Evening Star)
  • Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: Family Ties (Leo)
  • Adam Pieronczyk: Komeda: The Innocent Sorcerer (Jazzwerkstatt)
  • Phil Ranelin: Perseverance (Wide Hive)
  • Dan Raphael/Rich Halley/Carson Halley: Children of the Blue Supermarket (Pine Eagle)
  • Claire Ritter: The Stream of Pearls Project (Zoning)
  • Ted Rosenthal: Out of This World (Playscape)
  • Tommy Smith: Karma (Spartacus)
  • Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections (Cuneiform)
  • Starlicker: Double Demon (Delmark)
  • Jason Stein Quartet: The Story This Time (Delmark)
  • Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation)

Historical Album (April 1, 2011-March 31, 2012): Cartagena! Curro Fuentes & Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia 1962-72 (Soundway) (5); Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe 1967: Bootleg Vol. 1 (Columbia/Legacy) (3); Dave Brubeck Quartet: The Last Time Out (Columbia/Legacy) (2). This category just irritates me. The Brubeck is a high B+, but the only other nominees I heard were on Rhapsody and not as good (the Freddie Hubbard is way short of his peak). A lot of other things I wish I had gotten, especially the Roscoe Mitchell and Von Freeman oldies. The Stan Getz Quintets are probably all things I already own, and as memory serves much better than the Davis bootleg. Interestingly, no Mosaic boxes were nominated -- not that I get them either.

Jazz Group: ICP Orchestra (5); Rova (3); Microscopic Septet (2). First pass: Vandermark Five, World Saxophone Quartet. I prefer to pick groups here not named for their leader (although I've made an exception for Vandermark Five in the past -- just not this year, because it's been awhile). Was tempted to write in Mostly Other People Do the Killing, but they're on the Rising Star ballot.

Rising Star Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing (5); Atomic (3), De Nazaten (2). First pass: Dead Cat Bounce, Mike Reed's Loose Assembly, The Claudia Quintet, The Cookers, Tin Hat. Possible write-ins: Available Jelly, Starlicker. Voted for Angles and Nik Bärtsch's Ronin last year, but they didn't release new albums.

Big Band: ICP Orchestra (5), Gerald Wilson Big Band (3); Satoki Fujii Orchestra (2). First pass: Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Either/Orchestra, Fred Ho and the Green Monster Big Band, Gerald Wilson Big Band, Globe Unity Orchestra, John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Peter Brötzmann Tentet, Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra, Vienna Art Orchestra, William Parker Little Huey. I don't really consider ICP to be a big band, but they were on the ballot so I figured why not? Dropped MTO after I saw it on the Rising Star ballot.

Rising Star -- Big Band: Satoko Fujii Orchestra (5); Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra (3), Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra (3). Can't think of much else.

Trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith (5), Dave Douglas (3), Ralph Alessi (2). First pass: Brian Lynch, Dave Douglas, John McNeil, Jon Faddis, Ralph Alessi, Roy Hargrove, Steven Bernstein, Wadada Leo Smith, Tomasz Stanko, Wynton Marsalis. Rising stars who belong up here: Dennis Gonzalez, Roy Campbell. Non-ballot candidates: Enrico Rava, Herb Robertson, Kenny Wheeler, Paolo Fresu, Randy Sandke, Wallace Roney, Warren Vaché. Could have written Gonzalez and/or Sandke in, but figured list is so strong that would be pointless.

Rising Star -- Trumpet: Dennis Gonzalez (5), Steven Bernstein (3), Natsuki Tamura (2). First pass: Darren Johnson [sic: Johnston], Dennis Gonzalez*, Nils Petter Molvaer, Paolo Fresu, Peter Evans, Rob Mazurek, Roy Campbell*, Steven Bernstein*. Non-ballot candidates: Magnus Broo, Taylor Ho Bynum, Mathias Eick, Russ Johnson, Matt Lavelle, Natsuki Tamura, Nate Wooley. Bernstein got squeezed out of my top three on main ballot, but since he's here I gave him a vote. Gonzalez isn't on top ballot, but should be.

Trombone: Roswell Rudd (5), Steve Swell (3), Phil Ranelin (2). First pass: Curtis Fowlkes, George Lewis, Jeb Bishop, Julian Priester, Luis Bonilla, Ray Anderson, Roswell Rudd, Steve Swell, Steve Turre, Wolter Wierbos. Other candidates: Chris Barber, Conrad Bauer, Craig Harris, Phil Ranelin. Ranelin actually had the best record last year, although he wasn't clever enough to call it The Incredible Honk.

Rising Star -- Trombone: Joe Fiedler (5); Rafi Malkiel (3), Jeff Albert (2). First pass: Brian Landrus, Josh Roseman, Julian Priester, Marshall Gilkes. Other candidates: Alan Ferber, Joe Fiedler, Rafi Malkiel. Does Landrus even play trombone? Priester would top this list but I haven't heard much lately and he's kinda old (b. 1935).

Soprano Saxophone: Evan Parker (5), Jane Ira Bloom (3), Vinny Golia (2). First pass: Bruce Ackley, Evan Parker, Jane Bunnett, Jane Ira Bloom, John Butcher, Michael Blake, Steve Wilson, Vinny Golia. Other candidates: Lol Coxhill, Joe Giardullo, Brent Jensen, Michael Marcus, Bob Wilber. I'd like to avoid picking players who are much better on some other instrument, which means most of the nominees. I like Parker's tenor better, but his soprano is extraordinary. I don't hear Golia often enough to know what his main instrument is, but he has something special on the soprano.

Rising Star -- Soprano Saxophone: Mike Ellis (5), Brent Jensen (3), Jason Robinson (2). First pass: Bruce Ackley, Marcus Strickland, Steve Wilson, Vinny Golia. Other candidates: Steve Adams, Mihaly Borbely, Mike Ellis, Allon Farber, Peter Epstein, Brent Jensen, Jason Robinson. With only 10 nominees, half in their 60s, half more on other instruments, they don't seem to be trying very hard -- all the more reason to send some write-ins their way.

Alto Saxophone: Tim Berne (5), Anthony Braxton (3), Rudresh Mahanthappa (2). First pass: Anthony Braxton, Bobby Watson, Bud Shank (RIP), Charles McPherson, Darius Jones-, Dave Rempis-, David Binney, Dick Oatts, Greg Osby, Henry Threadgill, Jim Snidero, Joe McPhee, John Zorn, Jon Irabagon, Lee Konitz, Marty Ehrlich, Matana Roberts-, Miguel Zenón, Oliver Lake, Ornette Coleman, Phil Woods, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Steve Wilson, Ted Nash-, Vincent Herring. Other candidates: Abraham Burton, Arthur Blythe, Bob Wilber. Daniel Carter, Frank Gratkowski, François Carrier, Joel Frahm, Mario Schiano, Mark Whitecage, Marshall Allen, Martin Küchen, Michael Hashim, Michael Moore, Philip Johnston, Rob Brown, Roy Nathanson, Sabir Mateen, Sonny Simmons, Steve Lehman, Steve Slagle, Tim Berne. Mahanthappa is 40, but (like Zenón and Irabagon) has been promoted out of Rising Star contention. That would be well earned but the list is so deep it's nearly impossible to jump from Rising Star to the top list. I cut him some slack because Ornette hasn't recorded, and Lee is slowing down, and Michael Moore and Marty Ehrlich straddle clarinet.

Rising Star -- Alto Saxophone: Steve Lehman (5), François Carrier (3), Darius Jones (2). First pass: Darius Jones, Dave Rempis, David Binney, Allen Lowe, Matana Roberts, Ted Nash. Other candidates: Alex Kontorovich, Alexander McCabe, Andy Laster, Aram Shelton, Benjamin Herman, Dmitri Baevsky, Ian Hendrickson-Smith, Jim Hobbs, Martin Küchen, Ingrid Laubrock, John O'Gallagher, Logan Richardson, Mike DiRubbo, Pete Robbins, Steve Lehman, Zaid Nasser. Ballot looks to be trimmed down from main list, making little effort to add younger players, even though there are lots of them. Lehman has the best record so far this year. Carrier is always superb; he's 50 now, so arguably should be moved up.

Tenor Saxophone: David Murray (5), David S. Ware (3), Ken Vandermark (2). First pass: Branford Marsalis, Charles Lloyd, Chris Potter, David Murray, David S. Ware, Donny McCaslin, Eric Alexander, Evan Parker, Grant Stewart, Houston Person, James Carter, JD Allen, Joe Lovano, Joel Frahm, Joshua Redman, Marcus Strickland, Mats Gustafsson, Odean Pope, Peter Brötzmann, Sonny Rollins, Tony Malaby, Von Freeman, Wayne Shorter, Willem Breuker (RIP). Other candidates: Bennie Wallace, Billy Harper, Charles Gayle, Dave Liebman, David Sanchez, Ellery Eskelin, Gato Barbieri, Gebhard Ullman, Harry Allen, Ivo Perelman, Jan Garbarek, Jerry Bergonzi, Joe McPhee, Juhani Aaltonen, Ken Vandermark, Larry Ochs, Pharoah Sanders, Rich Halley, Archie Shepp, Scott Hamilton, Tommy Smith. What's with no Vandermark nomination? I dropped him behind Ware this year, but I haven't been getting most of his work. Could have written in other names, especially Halley (who produced more than just my favorite album of 2011) and Smith, or I could have picked McPhee (who seems stronger than ever) or Parker (who's focusing more on his tenor). Or Rollins, who put out a relatively recent record that cracked my top ten. My favorite instrument.

Rising Star -- Tenor Saxophone: Ellery Eskelin (5), Marcus Strickland (3), Ivo Perelman (2). First pass: Abraham Burton, Anat Cohen, Grant Stewart, John Ellis, Jon Irabagon, Marcus Strickland, Mats Gustafsson, Tim Warfield, Tony Malaby. Other candidates: Adam Pieronczyk, Assif Tsahar, Chris Byars, Chris Cheek, Chris Speed, Dave Rempis, Gilad Atzmon, Gorka Benitez, Mark Shim, Rodrigo Amado. Similar to the alto sax rising star list, but with a few more options -- just not the ones I'd take. I dropped Malaby from last year's ballot because he's on the main ballot this time, and added Strickland because he is a rising star. Eskelin and Perelman are in-betweeners, a bit older than Malaby; they should be regarded as major figures. When they're recognized I can promote Amado and Byars, and try to figure out whether Rempis and Irabagon play tenor or alto.

Baritone Saxophone: Gebhard Ullmann (5), Hamiett Bluiett (3), Mats Gustafsson (2). First pass: Brian Landrus, Claire Daly, Fred Ho, Gary Smulyan, Gebhard Ullmann, Hamiet Bluiett, Howard Johnson, James Carter, Joe Temperley, John Surman, Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson, Scott Robinson, Tim Berne, Vinny Golia. Other candidates: Colin Stetson. Dialed Bluiett back a bit since he hasn't recorded much, while Ullmann is a machine, his standing diluted only because he plays so many other reed instruments.

Rising Star -- Baritone Saxophone: Gebhard Ullmann (5), Brian Landrus (3), Adam Schroeder (2). First pass: Brian Landrus, Frederick Ljunkivetist [sic], Colin Stenson [sic], Gebhard Ullmann. Other candidates: Charles Evans, Adam Schroeder. List is thin here, partly because people like Claire Daly have won here and moved off the ballot.

Clarinet: Perry Robinson (5), Louis Sclavis (3), Michael Moore (2). First pass: Anat Cohen, Ben Goldberg, Chris Speed, Don Byron, Eddie Daniels, Evan Christopher, François Houle, Gebhard Ullmann, Ken Peplowski, Ken Vandermark, Louis Sclavis, Marty Ehrlich, Michael Moore, Paquito D'Rivera, Perry Robinson. Other candidates: Alan Barnes, Allan Vaché, André Jaume, Ben Goldberg, Lajos Dudas, Mort Weiss. Haven't heard anything real recent by Robinson, but don't feel like nudging him out quite yet, even though there are plenty of contenders at this level. Moore and Ehrlich mostly play alto sax, but fit it in seamlessly enough to make it seem like they play more clarinet.

Rising Star -- Clarinet: Avram Fefer (5), Evan Christopher (3), Mort Weiss (2). First pass: Evan Christopher, François Houle, Gebhard Ullman*, Gianluigi Trovesi, Louis Sclavis*, Ned Rothenberg, Perry Robinson*, Rudi Mahal. Other candidates: Antti Sarpila, Andy Biskin, Avram Fefer, Ben Goldberg, Greg Wall, Mort Weiss. Ballot mostly dupes while missing newer players -- by the way, what happened to Ben Goldberg? Fefer's latest was all tenor sax, and a bit step forward; just thought I should mention him somewhere.

Flute: Juhani Aaltonen (5), Henry Threadgill (3), Nicole Mitchell (2). First pass: Dave Valentin, Frank Wess, Henry Threadgill, Jane Bunnett, Kali Z. Fasteau, Mark Weinstein, Nicole Mitchell, Robert Dick, Vinny Golia, Wolfgang Puschnig. Other candidates: Juhani Aaltonen. Decided to break precedent and go with saxophonists who can sustain their vibe on flute.

Rising Star -- Flute: Kali Z. Fasteau (5), Steve Adams (3), Sam Most (2). First pass: Kali Z. Fasteau, Steve Adams, Mark Weinstein. What, no Nicole Mitchell? She's 44, but doesn't have that much of a career, but she's already top-list only -- unlike Sam Most (b. 1930), still struggling to make Rising Star.

Piano: Abdullah Ibrahim (5), Muhal Richard Abrams (3), Misha Mengelberg (2). First pass: Ahmad Jamal, Alexander Von Schlippenbach, Bill Charlap, Brad Mehldau, Cecil Taylor, Dave Brubeck, Dick Hyman, Enrico Pieranunzi-, Ethan Iverson, Fred Hersch, Jason Moran, Keith Jarrett, Kenny Barron, Martial Solal, Matthew Shipp, McCoy Tyner, Myra Melford, Satoko Fujii-, Uri Caine, Vijay Iyer-. Other candidates: Abdullah Ibrahim, Borah Bergman, Cedar Walton, Chucho Valdes, Dave Burrell, Eddie Palmieri, Hal Galper, Giorgio Gaslini, Horace Silver, Howard Riley, Irène Schweizer, Keith Tippett, Michael Jefry Stevens, Misha Mengelberg, Muhal Richard Abrams, Paul Bley, Ran Blake, Randy Weston, Steve Kuhn, Vyacheslav Ganelin. Last year I voted for Melford, Shipp, and Crispell. Took a different tack this year and voted for seniors with exceptional records, even though it took write-ins (the ballot preparers were too busy making sure we'd be reminded of Aaron Parks, Benny Green, Bob James, Hiromi, Jon Batiste, Lafayette Gilchrist, Matt Mitchell [who?], Robert Glasper, Taylor Eigsti, etc.) to include guys already on the HOF ballot). Once again, I skipped everyone still on the Rising Star ballot, which mostly means Iyer and Fujii. On the other hand, Craig Taborn (who is a rising star but way behind Iyer) is only on the top ballot.

Rising Star -- Piano: Ted Rosenthal (5), Kris Davis (3), Russ Lossing (2). First pass: David Hazeltine-, Enrico Pieranunzi-, George Colligan-, Harold O'Neal, Luis Perdomo, Ross Lossing, Satoko Fujii-, Vijay Iyer-. Other candidates: Albert Van Veenendaal, Bernardo Sassetti, Bill Carrothers, Eliane Elias, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Greg Burk, Ismael Dueñas, Jean-Michel Pilc, Júlio Resende, Kris Davis, Marcin Wasilewski, Michele Rosewoman, Neil Cowley, Nik Bärtsch, Nobu Stowe, Orrin Evans, Pandelis Karayorgis, Rebecca Cline, Sergi Sirvent, Ted Rosenthal, Håvard Wiik. Decided to skip the candidates already on the top ballot (Iyer, Fujii, Pieranunzi, Colligan, Hazeltine, others I take less seriously). Rosenthal got the pick for the best piano trio album of last year.

Electronic Keyboard: Matthew Shipp (5), Uri Caine (3), George Colligan (2). First pass: Craig Taborn, George Colligan, Matthew Shipp, John Medeski, Uri Caine. I don't keep good records on this, so it's hard to come up with names, especially since some of the best electric is interchangeable with acoustic (e.g., Nik Bärtsch). So I stuck with the ballot, and used the occasion to pick some superb pianists I missed above.

Rising Star -- Electronic Keyboard: Nik Bärtsch (5), Nels Cline (3), Rob Mazurek (2). First pass: George Colligan, Larry Goldings, Nels Cline, Rob Mazurek. I have no real idea. I wrote in Bärtsch because I hadn't voted for him before, and take the ballot's word that Cline and Mazurek qualify, although as far as I'm concerned they play other instruments (and only dabble in electronics). On the other hand, why not Kieran Hebden? Lasse Marhaug?

Organ: Gary Versace (5), Amina Claudine Myers (3), John Medeski (2). First pass: Alexander Hawkins, Amina Claudine Meyers, Barbara Dennerlein, Gary Versace, Jared Gold, Joey DeFrancesco, John Medeski, Larry Goldings, Mike LeDonne. Others: Brian Charette, Wayne Peet.

Rising Star -- Organ: Brian Charette (5), Vince Seneri (3), Jared Gold (2). First pass: Brian Charette, Jared Gold. Other candidates: Niclas Knudsen, Vince Seneri, Robert Walter.

Violin: Jenny Scheinman (5), Jason Hwang (3), Charles Burnham (2). First pass: Carla Kihlstedt, Charles Burnham, Jason Hwang, Mary Oliver, Mat Maneri, Regina Carter, Rob Thomas. Others: Jenny Scheinman. Why did Scheinman get scratched from the ballot?

Rising Star -- Violin: Carla Kihlstedt (5), Aaron Weinstein (3), Jesse Zubot (2). First pass: Aaron Weinstein, Carla Kihlstedt, Christian Howes, Zach Brock. Other candidates: Jesse Zubot, John Ettinger, Meg Okura.

Guitar: Bill Frisell (5), Nels Cline (3), Raoul Björkenheim (2). First pass: Bill Frisell, Bucky Pizzarelli, Dave Stryker, Howard Alden, Jeff Parker, Jim Hall, Joe Morris, John Abercrombie, John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Marc Ribot, Mary Halvorson, Nels Cline, Peter Bernstein, Ralph Towner, Russell Malone, Steve Tibbetts. Other candidates: Billy Jenkins, James Blood Ulmer, Marc Ducret, Marty Grosz, Michael Musillami, Philip Catherine, Pierre Dørge, Raoul Björkenheim, Terje Rypdal, Ulf Wakenius, Wolfgang Muthspiel. Lots of guitarists, even a range of styles. One surprising thing about the ballot is that Mary Halvorson, age 31, has already graduated to top-only status.

Rising Star -- Guitar: Jeff Parker (5), Peter Bernstein (3), Anders Nilsson (2). First pass: Gilad Hekselman, Jeff Parker, Joe Cohn, Liberty Ellman, Peter Bernstein, Rez Abbasi. Other candidates: Anders Nilsson, Brad Shepik, Pedro Gomes, Gordon Grdina, Jacob Young, Kevin O'Neill, Luis Lopes, Mark O'Leary, Pete McCann, Samo Salamon, Scott DuBois. Interesting here that five or six of the others could have hit the write-in slot, maybe even dislodging the top two (and I like them quite a lot).

Bass: William Parker (5), Peter Washington (3), John Hébert (2). First pass: Arild Andersen, Avishai Cohen, Barry Guy, Ben Allison, Charlie Haden, Christian McBride, Drew Gress, Gary Peacock, Joelle Leandre, John Hébert, Marc Johnson, Mark Dresser, Michael Formanek, Omer Avital, Peter Washington, Ray Drummond, Reggie Workman, William Parker. Other candidates: Barre Phillips, Buell Neidlinger, Dave Holland, Henry Grimes, Joe Fonda, John Lindberg, Mario Pavone, Mark Helias, Harvie S, Miroslav Vitous, Reid Anderson, Ron Carter. Odd that Dave Holland, Ron Carter, and Henry Grimes dropped from the ballot (while Ben Williams, Esperanza Spalding, Linda Oh, and Nicki Parrott were added).

Rising Star -- Bass: Adam Lane (5), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (3), Pablo Aslan (2). First pass: Arild Andersen, Avishai Cohen, Barry Guy, Drew Gress, Greg Cohen, Harrison Bankhead, Joelle Leandre, Mark Dresser, Omer Avital, Pablo Aslan, Scott Colley. Other candidates: Alexis Cuadrado, Anne Mette Iversen, Arthur Kell, Eivind Opsvik, Hans Glawischnig, Ken Filiano, Ken McBride, Kent Kessler, Marcin Oles, Moppa Elliott, Stephan Crump. Same list with a few names scratched out, a couple more added. Most of the top-onlies make sense: a few are under 50 but with substantial discographies (Ben Allison, Christian McBride, John Hébert), but then there is Spalding, Parrott, and Victor Wooten. The Rising Star adds: Jason Roebke, James Genus, Luques Curtis, Matt Penman, Pablo Aslan, Robert Hurst -- only Aslan has made much of a mark as a leader.

Electric Bass: Stomu Takeishi (5), Nate McBride (3), Drew Gress (2). First pass: Bob Cranshaw, Jamaldeen Tacuma [sic: Jamaaladeen], James Genus, Drew Gress, John Patitucci, Nate McBride, Steve Swallow, Stomu Takeishi, Other candidates: Melvin Gibbs, Chris Morrissey, Massimo Pupillo. I don't have a good sense of how much various acoustic bassists play electric, but the number of real specialists of any import whatsoever (like Takeishi) is tiny compared to the acoustic bass roster.

Rising Star -- Electric Bass: Tommy Babin (5), Melvin Gibbs (3), Chris Morrissey (2). First pass: None. Aside from the dupes, I recognize very few names here, and wonder why Bob Cranshaw is still busting his hump at 80?

Drums: Andrew Cyrille (5), Hamid Drake (3), Gerry Hemingway (2). First pass: Al Foster, Andrew Cyrille, Bill Stewart, Bobby Previte, Gerald Cleaver, Gerry Hemingway, Hamid Drake, Han Bennink, Jack DeJohnette, Joey Baron, John Hollenbeck, Kenny Washington, Lewis Nash, Matt Wilson, Paal Nilssen-Love, Paul Lovens, Paul Motian (RIP), Peter Erskine, Roy Haynes. Other candidates: Billy Hart, Paul Lytton, Louis Moholo, Sunny Murray, Tony Oxley.

Rising Star -- Drums: Paal Nilssen-Love (5), Jim Black (3), Mike Reed (2). First pass: Alex Cline, Allison Miller, Dafnis Prieto, Dan Weiss, Gerald Cleaver, Gerry Hemingway, Joe Farnsworth, Mike Reed, Paal Nilssen-Love, Paul Lovens, Scott Amendola, Tim Daisy. Other candidates: Anthony Brown, Dave King, Eric Harland, John Hollenbeck, Richie Barshay, Stefan Pasborg, Thomas Strønen, Tom Rainey, Tyshawn Sorey. Didn't expect Hemingway (56) on this list. Surprised that Hollenbeck in particular was left off. Lots of good young drummers.

Vibes: Joe Locke (5), Kevin Norton (3), Warren Smith (2). First pass: Bobby Hutcherson, Gunter Hampel, Jason Adasiewicz, Joe Locke, Kevin Norton, Khan Jamal, Mike Mainieri, Matt Moran, Steve Nelson, Warren Smith. Other candidates: Bill Ware, Kenny Wollesen.

Rising Star -- Vibes: Matt Moran (5), Jason Adasiewicz (3), Bryan Carrott (2). First pass: Bryan Carrott, Matt Moran. Another ballot screw-up. Ancients Teddy Charles (84), Gunter Hampel (75), Khan Jamal, Warren Smith, and Joe Chambers are repeated here, but young Jason Adasiewicz is top-ballot only. Having left him out above, I included him here.

Percussion: Han Bennink (5), Warren Smith (3), Satoshi Takeishi (2). First pass: Adam Rudolph, Bobby Sanabria, Dan Weiss, Hamid Drake, Han Bennink, Kahil El'Zabar, Leon Parker, Marilyn Mazur, Michael Zerang, Mino Cinelu, Poncho Sanchez, Satoshi Takeishi, Susie Ibarra, Warren Smith, Zakir Hussain. Other candidates: Gregg Bendian, Milford Graves, Roberto Rodriguez. Mixed bag category, traditionally ruled by Latin congaleros and timbaleros with other odds and ends butting in. I tend to jump around here, this time going with drummers who play outside their kits.

Rising Star -- Percussion: Kevin Diehl (5), Dan Weiss (3), Ravish Momin (2). First pass: Arto Tuncoboyican, Michael Zerang. Other candidates: Billy Fox, Jerry Leake. Ballot offers a small subset of the main list, all but inviting write-ins. Diehl leads Sonic Liberation Front, with its bata drums.

Miscellaneous Instrument: David Murray (bass clarinet) (5), Bob Stewart (tuba) (3), Rabih Abou-Khalil (oud) (2). First pass: Andy Narell (steel pans), Bob Stewart (tuba), David Murray (bass clarinet), Dino Saluzzi (bandoneon), Eric Friedlander (cello), Ernst Reijseger (cello), Gary Versace (accordion), Gregoire Maret (harmonica), Howard Johnson (tuba), Myra Melford (harmonium), Rabih Abou-Khalil (oud), Richard Galliano (accordion), Scott Robinson (bass sax), Toots Thielemans (harmonica), Other candidates: Bill Cole (didgeridoo), John Gill (banjo), Michael Marcus (manzello/stritch), Paul Dunmall (bagpipes), Peter Brötzmann (tarogato), Philipp Wachsmann (electronics).

Rising Star -- Miscellaneous Instrument: Cooper-Moore (diddley bow) (5), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello) (3), Andrea Parkins (accordion) (2). First pass: Anouar Brahem (oud), others from above. Other candidates: Andrea Parkins (accordion), Cooper-Moore (diddley bow), Eivind Kang (viola), Ben Stapp (tuba), Daniel Levin (cello), Kali Z. Fasteau (ney), Marcus Rojas (tuba).

Male Vocalist: Freddy Cole (5), Theo Bleckmann (3), Mose Allison (2). First pass: Bob Dorough, Freddy Cole, Giacomo Gates, Kevin Mahogany, Mose Allison, Theo Bleckmann. I don't care for many of the big names here

Rising Star -- Male Vocalist: Giacomo Gates (5), Jamie Davis (3), Mark Winkler (2). First pass: Other candidates: Mark Winkler.

Female Vocalist: Sheila Jordan (5), René Marie (3), Diana Krall (2). First pass: Cassandra Wilson, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Diana Krall, Fay Victor, Lorraine Feather, Patricia Barber, Roberta Gambarini, Rene Marie, Sheila Jordan, Tierney Sutton. Other candidates: Lisa Sokolov, Mary Stallings. Held Sokolov and Victor back for rising star, although they're probably as old or older than Krall and Barber. [Correction: Victor assures me she's Gen-X, but I still haven't seen the math. Just looking at my (incomplete) database, her first records were in 1997-98; Barber started out in 1991, at 35; Krall in 1993, at 29; Sokolov also started in 1993, age unknown.]

Rising Star -- Female Vocalist: Lisa Sokolov (5), Fay Victor (3), Yaala Ballin (2). First pass: Amy Cervini, Fay Victor, Lorraine Feather, Rene Marie. Other candidates: Joan Crowe, Maria Anadon, Lisa Sokolov, Yaala Ballin.

Composer: John Zorn (5), Carla Bley (3), Moppa Elliott (2). First pass: Ben Allison, Carla Bley, Dave Holland, Gerald Wilson, John Zorn, Moppa Elliott, Ornette Coleman, Randy Weston, Steve Lehman, Terence Blanchard.

Rising Star -- Composer: Ben Allison (5), Steve Lehman (3), Moppa Elliott (2). First pass: Ben Allison, Chris Byars, Jason Moran, Moppa Elliott, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Steve Lehman, Vijay Iyer.

Arranger: Gerald Wilson (5), Steven Bernstein (3), Allen Toussaint (2). First pass: Allen Toussaint, Bob Brookmeyer, Carla Bley, Dave Holland, David Weiss, Gerald Wilson, Jim McNeely, Steven Bernstein, William Parker, Wynton Marsalis.

Rising Star -- Arranger: John Hollenbeck (5), Marcus Shelby (3), David Weiss (2). First pass: Ben Allison, David Weiss, John Hollenbeck, Chie Imaizumi, Marcus Shelby.

Record Label: Clean Feed (5), ECM (3), Sunnyside (2). First pass: Arbors, AUM Fidelity, Clean Feed, Columbia/Legacy, Cuneiform, Delmark, HighNote, Intakt, Leo, Nonesuch, Origin, Pi, Posi-Tone, Sunnyside, Tzadik. Other candidates: Fresh Sound, Not Two, Okka Disk, Porter, Smalltown Superjazz, Stomp Off.

Producer: Joe Fields (5), Mark Free (3), David Binney (2). First pass: Joe Fields, Manfred Eicher, Matt Baltisaris, Michael Cuscuna. Others: David Binney, Marc Free, Luke Kaven, Steven Joerg.

Rising Star -- Producer: John Corbett (5), Bruno Johnson (3), Jeff Gauthier (2). First pass: Bruno Johnson, Jeff Gauthier. Repeated vote from last year, although Corbett had been dropped from the ballot. Didn't recognize most of those added, which doesn't mean they are undeserving. More likely means I don't pay much attention here.

Blues Artist or Group: James Blood Ulmer (5), Sue Foley (3), Carolina Chocolate Drops (2). First pass: B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Corey Harris, Dr. John, Eric Bibb, Eric Clapton, James Blood Ulmer, Otis Taylor, Taj Mahal.

Blues Album (April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011): Wynton Marsalis/Eric Clapton: Play the Blues (Reprise) (5), Marcia Ball: Roadside Attractions (Alligator) (3), Carolina Chocolate Drops: Leaving Eden (Nonesuch) (2). First pass: Only nominated record I've heard is Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three: Middle of Everywhere (Free Dirt) -- mid-B+, below the three write-ins, not to mention Watermelon Slim & Super Chikan's Okiesippi Blues (Northern Blues Music), or even Tedeschi Trucks Band's Revelator (Sony Classical). Been meaning to check out Eric Bibb and Otis Taylor. Haven't even heard of anything else.

Beyond Artist or Group: The Roots (5), Merle Haggard (3), Raphael Saadiq (2). First pass: Arcade Fire, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Cee-Lo Green, Dr. John, Flying Lotus, Hayes Carll, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Pink Martini, PJ Harvey, Raphael Saadiq, The Magnetic Fields, The Roots, Tinariwen, Tune-Yards, Wilco, Wild Flag. Other candidates: Well, pretty much everyone.

Beyond Album (April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011): Pistol Annies: Hell on Wheels (Columbia Nashville) (5), Jay-Z/Kanye West: Watch the Throne (Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella) (3), Merle Haggard: Working in Tennessee (Vanguard) (2). First pass (ones I've heard and rated *** or better, beyond the top three moved above):

  • TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light (Interscope)
  • Tom Waits: Bad as Me (Anti-)
  • Hayes Carll: KMAG YOYO (Lost Highway)
  • Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music)
  • Common: The Dreamer, the Believer (Think Common)
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band: The Revelator (Sony Masterworks)

Obviously, off-ballot I can find a lot more.