Downbeat Critics Poll: 2016

Notes on my voting for Downbeat's 2016 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'll skip over pianists of much greater stature than people I'd consider for 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 Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett, and Muddy Waters from 2015. George Russell (5), Mal Waldron (3), Jimmy Rushing. I decided to advance two write-ins to see if it helps to get them on the ballot. I wish I had room to add Don Pullen, and I could easily come up with a few more names. Downbeat's HOF has 142 inductees, expanding at a rate of two per year plus, since 2008, 1-5 picks from a "Veterans Committee" -- let's list them.

  • 2008: Jimmy Blanton, Harry Carney, Errol Garner, Jo Jones, Jimmie Lunceford
  • 2009: Tadd Dameron, Oscar Pettiford
  • 2010: Baby Dodds, Billy Eckstine, Philly Joe Jones, Chick Webb
  • 2011: Paul Chambers
  • 2012: Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt
  • 2013: Robert Johnson
  • 2014: Bing Crosby, Dinah Washington
  • 2015: Muddy Waters

First pass: on ballot I also considered voting for: Han Bennink, Paul Bley, Anthony Braxton, Jaki Byard, Don Byas, Don Cherry, Jimmy Giuffre, Grant Green, Abdullah Ibrahim, Illinois Jacquet, Tito Puente, Sam Rivers, George Russell, Pharoah Sanders, Tomasz Stanko, Cedar Walton, Randy Weston.

For what it's worth, others on the ballot (notation: 3 = in, but when?; 2 = maybe; 1 = not really; 0 = who are you kidding?; no changes to ballot this year: Fred Anderson (2), Derek Bailey (2), Kenny Barron (2), George Benson (0), Bob Brookmeyer (2), Kenny Burrell (1), Thomas Chapin (1), Buddy DeFranco (2), Jack DeJohnette (3), George Duke (0), Von Freeman (1), Bill Frisell (3), Steve Gadd (0), Jan Garbarek (2), 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 (1), John McLaughlin (3), 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), Phil Woods (2), 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, Ruby Braff, *Peter Brötzmann, Roy Campbell, *Marilyn Crispell, Art Farmer, Tommy Flanagan, Herb Geller, *Scott Hamilton, John Hicks, Leroy Jenkins, *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, *Irène Schweizer, Sonny Sharrock, *Archie Shepp, *Wadada Leo Smith, Horace Tapscott, *Henry Threadgill, *Alex von Schlippenbach, David S. Ware, Kenny Wheeler, 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, Luis Russell, Stuff Smith, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Rex Stewart, Lucky Thompson, Frankie Trumbauer, Ethel Waters.

Downbeat tries to cover blues as well as jazz, and has a few blues stars inducted, but their list is very skimpy (to date: Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters; and the only other names on the current ballot: Dr. John, Professor Longhair). Hard to take them seroiusly untill they pick up a fair share of the following: Bobby Bland, Big Bill Broonzy, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Son House, Howlin' Wolf, Mississippi John Hurt, Elmore James, Etta James, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Leadbelly, Little Walter, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Brownie McGhee/Sonny Terry, Memphis Minnie, Charley Patton, Ma Rainey, Tampa Red, Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy Williamson [Rice Miller]. (Note again that I listed Louis Jordan and Jimmy Rushing above.)

Jazz Artist: Anthony Braxton (5), Ken Vandermark (3), Matthew Shipp (2). Never quite know what to do here, so I'm playing it as sort of a mini-HOF category weighted toward the currently active (- indicates previous first pass picks unaccountably dropped from ballot). First pass: Kenny Barron, Anthony Braxton, Steve Coleman, Dave Douglas, -Mary Halvorson, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Wadada Leo Smith, -Craig Taborn, Henry Threadgill, Ken Vandermark, John Zorn.

Rising Star -- Jazz Artist: Jon Irabagon (5), Mike Reed (3), Mary Halvorson (2). First pass: Mary Halvorson, John Hollenbeck, Jon Irabagon, -Steve Lehman, Mike Reed, Jenny Scheinman, Colin Stetson, Marcus Strickland, Craig Taborn, Kamasi Washington. Lehman, my top pick last year, was dropped from ballot (moved up), while Halvorson lost her main ballot slot. Washington is on both ballots. He's only released one album, but it was 3CD and a huge pop-critical crossover (not that I concur).

Jazz Album of the Year (April 1, 2014-March 31, 2015): Henry Threadgill's Zooid, In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi) (5); Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers Ensemble, Crisis (Pi) (3); Joe Lovano/Dave Douglas, Sound Prints: Live at Monterey Jazz Festival (Blue Note) (2).

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. (Otherwise I would have written in two superior albums by Irène Schweizer and Aly Keita, my only full A albums of the period -- see below. Threadgill would have been third, and the other two were no better than a dozen or more other albums that missed the ballot.) The ballot lists 125 records (down from 129 last year). I've heard 76 (61%, up from 55% last year but down from 2014's 69%), and only gave 12 A-list grades (9.6%, up from last year's 7.7% but down from 2014's 10.6%). Three lists follow: albums on the ballot that I've rated; albums on the ballot I haven't heard; and albums not on the ballot that made my A-list. The skewed eligibility dates would have caused more work, so I took a couple shortcuts around them. You can still find my complete 2015 Jazz List and early 2016 releases (not just jazz) are in my 2016 List.

Albums on their ballot I've heard and graded (sorted by grade, then within grade alphabetically by artist) (77; was 71 last year):

  • JD Allen, Graffiti (Savant) [A-]
  • Barry Altschul 3dom Factor, Tales of the Unforeseen (TUM) [A-]
  • Liberty Ellman, Radiate (Pi) [A-]
  • Erik Friedlander, Oscalypso (Skipstone) [A-]
  • Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, Artifacts (482 Music) [A-]
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup) [A-]
  • Noah Preminger, Pivot: Live at 55 Bar (self-released) [A-]
  • Matthew Shipp Trio, The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear) [A-]
  • Nate Wooley Quintet, (Dance To) The Early Music (Clean Feed) [A-]
  • Ralph Alessi, Quiver (ECM -16) [***]
  • Tim Berne's Snakeoil, You've Been Watching Me (ECM) [***]
  • Jaimeo Brown Transcendence, Work Songs (Motema -16) [***]
  • Steve Coleman & the Council of Balance, Synovial Joints (Pi) [***]
  • Mary Halvorson, Meltframe (Firehouse 12) [***]
  • Wayne Horvitz, Some Places Are Forever Afternoon (Songlines) [***]
  • Kirk Knuffke, Arms & Hands (Royal Potato Family) [***]
  • Brian Landrus Trio, The Deep Below (Blueland) [***]
  • Joe Locke, Love Is a Pendulum (Motéma) [***]
  • Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motéma) [***]
  • Aruán Ortiz, Hidden Voices (Intakt -16) [***]
  • Gary Peacock Trio, Now This (ECM) [***]
  • John Scofield, Past Present (Impuse!) [***]
  • Wadada Leo Smith & John Lindberg, Celestial Weather (TUM) [***]
  • The Stryker/Slagle Band Expanded, Routes (Strikezone -16) [***]
  • The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch) [**]
  • Terence Blanchard E-Collective, Breathless (Blue Note) [**]
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater & Irvin Mayfield, Dee Dee's Feathers (OKeh) [**]
  • Avishai Cohen, Into the Silence (ECM -16) [**]
  • Kris Davis Infrasound, Save Your Breath (Clean Feed) [**]
  • Aaron Diehl, Space Time Continuum (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • Dave Douglas, High Risk (Greenleaf) [**]
  • Dave Douglas Quintet, Brazen Heart (Greenleaf) [**]
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, Like It Is (MAMA) [**]
  • Robert Glasper, Covered (Blue Note) [**]
  • Heads of State, Search for Peace (Smoke Sessions) [**]
  • Carlos Henriquez, The Bronx Pyramid (Blue Engine) [**]
  • Charlie Hunter Trio, Let the Bells Ring On (self-release) [**]
  • Jon Irabagon, Behind the Sky (Irabbagast) [**]
  • Keith Jarrett, Creation (ECM) [**]
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Live in Cuba (Blue Engine) [**]
  • Ingrid Laubrock, Ubatuba (Firehouse 12) [**]
  • Charles Lloyd, Wild Man Dance (Blue Note) [**]
  • Charles Lloyd & the Marvels, I Long to See You (Blue Note -16) [**]
  • Lionel Loueke, Gaïa (Blue Note) [**]
  • Danilo Pérez/John Patitucci/Brian Blade, Children of the Light (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • Maria Schneider Orchestra, The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare) [**]
  • Terell Stafford, BrotherLee Love (Capri) [**]
  • David Torn, Only Sky (ECM) [**]
  • Manuel Valera & Groove Square, Urban Landscape (Destiny) [**]
  • Kamasi Washington, The Epic (Brainfeeder) [**]
  • Kenny Werner, The Melody (Pirouet) [**]
  • Cassandra Wilson, Coming Forth by Day (Sony Legacy) [**]
  • Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap, The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern (Columbia) [*]
  • Chris Dingman, The Subliminal and the Sublime (Inner Arts) [*]
  • Robin Eubanks, More Than Meets the Ear (ArtistShare) [*]
  • Vincent Herring, Night and Day (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Julian Lage, Arclight (Mack Avenue -16) [*]
  • Pete McCann, Range (Whirlwind) [*]
  • Metheny/Garbarrek/Burton/SWR Big Band, Hommage à Eberhard Weber (ECM) [*]
  • Bob Mintzer Orchestra, Get Up! (MCG Jazz) [*]
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant, For One to Love (Mack Avenue) [*]
  • Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Stretch Music (Ropeadope/Stretch Music) [*]
  • Randy Brecker, RandyPOP! (Piloo) [B]
  • Chick Corea & Béla Fleck, Two (Concord) [B]
  • Bill Frisell, When You Wish Upon a Star (OKeh -16) [B]
  • London, Meader, Pramuk & Ross, The Royal Bopsters Project (Motéma) [B]
  • Harold Mabern, Afro Blue (Smoke Sessions) [B]
  • Ben Monder, Amorphae (ECM) [B]
  • John Patitucci Electric Guitar Quartet, Brooklyn (Three Faces) [B]
  • Dr. Lonnie Smith, Evolution (Blue Note -16) [B]
  • Tigran Hamasyan, Luys I Luso (ECM) [B-]
  • Ku-Umba Frank Lacy & Mingus Big Band, Mingus Sings (Sunnyside) [B-]
  • Ben Williams, Coming of Age (Concord) [B-]
  • Kurt Elling, Passion World (Concord) [C]

In quality, I don't find Downbeat's album ballot much better than random picks. Grade breakdown, starting at A: 0, 12, 15, 28, 10, 8, 3, 0, 1. Slightly better than a normal bell curve, but I doubt that the records I missed would have fared so well.

Albums on their ballot I haven't heard (48; was 58 last year):

  • Cyrille Aimée, Let's Get Lost (Mack Avenue)
  • Joey Alexander, My Favorite Things (Motéma)
  • Karrin Allyson, Many a New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein (Motéma)
  • Lucian Ban Elevation, Songs From Afar (Sunnyside)
  • Kenny Burrell, The Road to Love (HighNote)
  • George Cables, In Good Company (High Note)
  • Teri Lyne Carrington, The Mosaic Project: Love and Soul (Concord)
  • Stanley Clarke/Jean-Luc Ponty/Biréli Lagrène, D-Stringz (Impulse!)
  • Larry Coryell, Heavy Feel (Wide Hive)
  • Joey DeFrancesco, Trip Mode (HighNote)
  • Orrin Evans, The Evolution of Oneself (Smoke Sessions)
  • Michael Formanek's Ensemble Kolossus, The Distance (ECM)
  • Sullivan Fortner, Aria (Impuse!)
  • GoGo Penguin, Man Made Object (Blue Note)
  • Wycliffe Gordon, Somebody New (Blues Back)
  • Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet, Family First (Beat Music Productions)
  • Tom Harrell, First Impressions (High Note)
  • Gilad Hekselman, Homes (Jazz Village)
  • Fred Hersch, Solo (Palmetto)
  • Stacey Kent, Tenderly (OKeh)
  • Koppel+Colley+Blade Collective, Koppel+Colley+Blade Collective (ArtistShare)
  • Mack Avenue Superband, Live From the 2015 Detroit Jazz Festival (Mack Avenue)
  • Christian McBride Trio, Live at the Village Vanguard (Mack Avenue)
  • John McLaughlin & 4th Dimension, Black Light (Abstract Logix)
  • Camila Meza, Traces (Sunnyside)
  • Roscoe Mitchell, Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa)
  • Ed Palermo Big Band, One Child Left Behind (Cuneiform)
  • Jeremy Pelt, #Jiveculture (HighNote)
  • John Pizzarelli, Midnight McCartney (Concord)
  • Pete Rodriguez, El Conde Negro (Destiny)
  • Renee Rosnes, Written in the Rocks (Smoke Sessions)
  • Jamison Ross, Jamison (Concord)
  • Jim Rotondi, Dark Blue (Smoke Sessions)
  • Antonio Sánchez, The Meridian Suite (CAM Jazz)
  • Antonio Sánchez, Three Times Three (CAM Jazz)
  • Arturo Sandoval, Live at Yoshi's (Alfi)
  • Kendrick Scott, We Are the Drum (Blue Note)
  • Snarky Puppy, Family Dinner Volume 2 (GroundUp)
  • Omar Sosa, JOG (Ota)
  • Luciana Souza, Speaking in Tongues (Sunnyside)
  • Esperanza Spalding, Emily's D+Evolution (Concord)
  • Matthew Stevens, Woodwork (Whirlwind)
  • Bill Stewart, Space Squid (Pirouet)
  • Chucho Valdés, Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac) (Jazz Village)
  • Marlene VerPlanck, The Mood I'm In (Audiophile)
  • Charenée Wade, Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson (Motéma)
  • Jeff "Tain" Watts, Blue, Vol. 1 (Dark Key)
  • Lizz Wright, fFreedom & Surrender (Concord)

The following 2015 and 2016 (so far) albums didn't make Downbeat's ballot, but I rated them A- (or better). (I didn't check release dates, but did weed out anything I mentioned last year.) Listed alphabetically (57, down from 65):

  • Beegie Adair/Don Aliquo: Too Marvelous for Words (Adair Music Group)
  • Harry Allen's All-Star Brazilian Band: Flying Over Rio (Arbors) **
  • Rodrigo Amado: This Is Our Language (Not Two)
  • Ray Anderson's Organic Quartet: Being the Point (Intuition) **
  • Audio One: What Thomas Bernhard Saw (Audiographic)
  • Dmitry Baevsky: Over and Out (Jazz Family)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Rigamaroll (Savant)
  • Josh Berman Trio: A Dance and a Hop (Delmark)
  • Nat Birchall: Invocations (Jazzman)
  • François Carrier/Steve Beresford/John Edwards/Michel Lambert: Outgoing (FMR)
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Unknowable (Not Two)
  • Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway: Table of Changes (Intakt)
  • Food: This Is Not a Miracle (ECM)
  • Chico Freeman/Heiri Känzig: The Arrival (Intakt)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin: Ichigo Ichie (Libra)
  • Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband: Play a Bill Frisell Set List (Cuneiform) **
  • Ulrich Gumpert Quartett: A New One (Intakt)
  • Rich Halley 4: Creating Structure (Pine Eagle)
  • Scott Hamilton: Scott Hamilton Plays Jule Styne (Blue Duchess)
  • Christoph Irniger Trio: Octopus (Intakt)
  • Andrew Jamieson: Heard the Voice (Edgetone)
  • Ochion Jewell Quartet: Volk (self-released)
  • Aly Keïta/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalo-Yele (Intakt -16) [A]
  • James Brandon Lewis: Days of FreeMan (Okeh) **
  • Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Man With Guitar: Where's Robert Johnson? (Constant Sorrow)
  • Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: We Will Gather When We Gather (Constant Sorrow)
  • Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Where a Cigarette Is Smoked by Ten Men (Constant Sorrow)
  • Michael McNeill Trio: Flight (self-released)
  • The Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble: Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarland (Planet Arts)
  • Joe McPhee/Jamie Saft/Joe Morris/Charles Downs: Ticonderoga (Clean Feed)
  • Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity: Firehouse (Clean Feed)
  • Larry Ochs/Don Robinson Duo: The Throne (Not Two) **
  • OZO: A Kind of Zo (Shhpuma/Clean Feed)
  • William Parker/Raining on the Moon: Great Spirit (AUM Fidelity)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Callas (Leo, 2CD)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Whit Dickey: Butterfly Whispers (Leo)
  • Alberto Pinton Noi Siamo: Resiliency (Moserobie -16)
  • Mike Reed's People Places & Things: A New Kind of Dance (482 Music)
  • Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thirsty Ear) **
  • The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Cash and Carry (Aerophonic)
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: The Otherworld Cycle (Edgetone)
  • Daniel Rosenboom: Astral Transference & Seven Dreams (Orenda, 2CD)
  • Roswell Rudd & Heather Masse: August Love Song (Red House -16)
  • Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balasz Pandi: Strength & Power (Rare Noise -16)
  • Samo Salamon Bassless Trio: Unity (Samo -16)
  • Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (Intakt) [A]
  • Matthew Shipp: Matthew Shipp Plays the Music of Allen Lowe: I Alone: The Everlasting Beauty of Monotony (Constant Sorrow)
  • Sons of Kemet: Lest We Forget What We Came Here to Do (Naim Jazz) **
  • Martin Speicher/Peter Geisselbrecht/Jörg Fischer: Spicy Unit (Spore Print)
  • Colin Stetson/Sarah Neufeld: Never Were the Way She Was (Constellation) **
  • Svenska Kaputt: Suomi (Moserobie)
  • Steve Swell: Steve Swell's Kende Dreams: Hommage à Bartók (Silkheart)
  • Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi -16)
  • Ryan Truesdell: Lines of Color (Blue Note/ArtistShare)
  • Mort Weiss: Mort Weiss Is a Jazz Reality Show (SMS Jazz)
  • Michael Zerang & the Blue Lights: Songs From the Big Book of Love (Pink Palace)
  • Omri Ziegele Noisy Minority: Wrong Is Right (Intakt -16)

Historical Album (April 1, 2014-March 31, 2015): Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings at the Village Vanguard (Resonance) (5); Sonny Sharrock, Ask the Ages (M.O.D. Technologies) (3); Erroll Garner, The Complete Concert by the Sea (Sony Legacy) (2). Of 58 items on the ballot, I've heard 10 (17.2%, down from 28.5% last year, but still higher than my 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) (7 + 3 above):

  • Miles Davis, Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy) [A-]
  • Bobby Rush, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush (Omnivore) [A-]
  • Billie Holiday, Banned From New York City: Live 1948-1957 (Uptown) [***]
  • Sheila Jordan, Better Than Anything: Live (There) [***]
  • David S. Ware/Apogee, Birth of a Being (AUM Fidelity) [***]
  • Larry Young, In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance -16) [***]
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, The Conny Plank Session (Gronland) [**]
  • Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Tokyo Adagio (Impuse!) [*]

Albums on their ballot I haven't heard (48):

  • John Abercrombie, The First Quartet (ECM)
  • Joe Albany, An Evening With Joe Albany, Vol. 2 (SteepleChase)
  • Count Basie, Netherlands On Kurhaus Concert 1954 (Doctor Jazz)
  • Tony Bennett/Bill Evans, The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings LPs (Fantasy)
  • Joe Castro, Lush Life: A Musical Journey (Sunnyside)
  • Al Cohn/Jimmy Rowles, Heavy Love (Elemental)
  • Albert Collins & the Icebreakers, Live at Rockpalast 1980 (Rockpalast)
  • John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters (Impuse!)
  • Larry Coryell, Aurora Coryellis (Purple Pyramid)
  • James Cotton, Mighty Long Time (New West)
  • Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 (Columbia)
  • Maynard Ferguson, Live From San Francisco (Omnivore)
  • Maynard Ferguson, Storm (Omnivore)
  • Ella Fitzgerald, Live at Chautauqua, Vol. 1 (Dot Time Legends)
  • The Flaming Lips, Heady Nuggs: 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic 1994-1997 (Warner Bros.)
  • Stan Getz, Moments in Time (Resonance)
  • Stan Getz & João Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto '76 (Resonance)
  • Carl Hall, You Don't Know Nothing About Love (Omnivore)
  • Barry Harris, Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron (Elemental)
  • Albert "Tootie" Heath, Kwanza (The First) (Elemental)
  • Jimmy Heath, Picture of Heath (Elemental)
  • The Isley Brothers, The Complete RCA Victor and T-Neck Album Masters (Sony Legacy)
  • Abbey Lincoln, Sophisticated Abbey (HighNote)
  • Magic Sam Blues Band, Black Magic (Delmark)
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet, A Love Supreme: Live in Amsterdam (Marsalis Musc/OKeh)
  • John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Live in '67 (Forty Below)
  • Brad Mehldau, 10 Years Solo Live (Nonesuch)
  • Wes Montgomery, In the Beginning (Resonance)
  • Sal Mosca, The Talk of the Town (Sunnyside)
  • Sam Most, From the Attic of My Mind (Elemental)
  • Jaco Pastorius, JACO: Original Soundtrack (Columbia/Legacy)
  • Art Pepper, Live at Fat Tuesday's (Elemental)
  • Art Pepper, Neon Art Volume 2 (Omnivore)
  • Pinetop Perkins & Jimmy Rogers, Genuine Blues Legends (ELROB)
  • Blind Alfred Reed, Appalachian Visionary (Dust to Digital)
  • Sonny Rollins Quartet With Don Cherry, Complete Live at the Village Gate 1962 (Solar)
  • Simon & Garfunkel, The Concert in Central Park [Vinyl Reissue] (Columbia/Legacy)
  • Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra: A Voice on Air (1935-1955) (Sony Legacy)
  • Frank Sinatra, Ultimate Sinatra (Capitol/Ume)
  • Stone the Crows, Stone the Crows/Ode to John Law (Angel Air)
  • UMO Jazz Orchestra With Michael Brecker, Live in Helsinki 1995 (Random Act)
  • The Velvet Underground, Loaded: Re-Loaded The 45th Anniversary Edition (Atlantic)
  • Joe Louis Walker, Live in Istanbul [DVD] (MVD)
  • Weather Report, The Legendary Tapes: 1978-1981 (Legacy)
  • Kenny Wheeler/John Taylor, On the Way to Two (Cam Jazz)
  • The Complete Bee Hive Sessions (Mosaic)
  • Night Flight to Dakar (Elemental)
  • The Rough Guide to the Blues Songsters (World Music Network)

The following April 2013-March 2014 "historical" albums didn't make Downbeat's ballot, but I rated them A- (or better). Listed alphabetically (8):

  • Willem Breuker Kollektief: Angoulême 18 Mai 1980 (Fou)
  • Bobby Bradford & John Carter Quintet: No U Turn: Live in Pasadena 1975 (Dark Tree)
  • Peter Brötzmann/Joe McPhee/Kent Kessler/Michael Zerang: Tales Out of Time (Hatology)
  • Wild Bill Davison: The Jazz Giants (Delmark/Sackville)
  • The Great American Music Ensemble: It's All in the Game (Jazzed Media -16)
  • William Hooker: Light: The Early Years 1975-1989 (NoBusiness -16)
  • George Lewis: The George Lewis Solo Trombone Album (Delmark/Sackville)
  • Mike Osborne: Dawn (Cuneiform)

Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing (5), Microscopic Septet (3), Rova (2).

First pass: The Bad Plus, Claudia Quintet, Medeski Martin & Wood, Microscopic Septet, Snarky Puppy, Rova, Henry Threadgill Zooid. Most of the nominees are leader-named groups, which I don't regard as real groups -- otherwise why not think up a distinct name? Real bad that they didn't include MOPDTK on the ballot. Group has nine albums over ten years -- a longer stretch than either of Miles Davis' famous Quintets or John Coltrane's legendary Quartet, nearly as long as the David S. Ware Quartet or the Vandermark 5, and as many (or more) A-list albums as any of those.

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

First pass: Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, São Paulo Underground, The Thing, Thumbscrew. Half of these groups I don't even recognize, at least not in the sense of being able to tell you who's in Steve Lehman Trio (his last album was an octet) let alone something like Jeremy Pelt Quintet or Julian Lage Group. 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), Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra (3), ICP Orchestra (2).

First pass: Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra, Peter Brötzmann Tentet, Anthony Brown's Asian-American Jazz Orchestra, Either/Orchestra, Satoko Fujii Orchestra, ICP Orchestra, London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra, William Parker & Little Huey, Sun Ra Arkestra, Vienna Art Orchestra.

I can't say I was very pleased with Vandermark's other big bands, but this Polish-centered group has been awesome all the way. Bernstein and ICP may be fading, but I can't think of anything recent to replace them.

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), Ralph Alessi (2).

First pass: Ralph Alessi, Steven Bernstein, Roy Campbell Jr. [RIP], Avishai Cohen, Dave Douglas, Paolo Fresu, 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've voted for Dennis Gonzalez and Paul Smoker in the past. They should be on the ballot.

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

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

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

First pass: Ray Anderson, Jeb Bishop, Luis Bonilla, Steve Davis, Joe Fiedler, Curtis Fowlkes, Wycliffe Gordon, Curtis Hasselbring, Ku-umba Frank Lacy, 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), Jacob Garchik (2).

First pass: Mats Aleklint, Samuel Blaser, Michael Dessen, Alan Ferber, Joe Fiedler, Jacob Garchik, Marshall Gilkes, Rafi Malkiel. Some more names: Brian Drye, Reut Regev.

Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome (5), Evan Parker (3), Bob Wilber (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. I'd like to avoid tenor (and alto) players who play a bit of soprano on the side, and they actually make up most of the ballot, everyone from Shorter to Strickland -- so that doesn't leave much.

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

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

Alto Saxophone: François Carrier (5), Anthony Braxton (3), Steve Lehman (2).

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, Phil Woods [RIP], Miguel Zenón, John Zorn.

Rising Star Alto Saxophone: Dave Rempis (5), Allen Lowe (3), John O'Gallagher (2).

First pass: Greg Abate, Dmitri Baevsky, Andrew D'Angelo, Mike DiRubbo, Benjamin Herman, Peter Van Huffel, Darius Jones, Alexey Kruglov, -Steve Lehman, Alexander McCabe, Dave Rempis, Logan Richardson, Matana Roberts, Aram Shelton. Went with two write-ins, bumping Lehman (only on top ballot) and DiRubbo. Lowe goes back to 1990, but most of his work came out in last five years. Rent Romus should be on the ballot, either here or above.

Tenor Saxophone: David Murray (5), Ken Vandermark (3), Ivo Perelman (2).

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, Marcus Strickland, 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 (49), Lew Tabackin, Bennie Wallace. Given the competition I probably shouldn't let Murray coast -- nothing since 2013 -- but he did build up a huge lead.

Rising Star Tenor Saxophone: Ellery Eskelin (5), Rodrigo Amado (3), Assif Tsahar (2).

First pass: Matt Bauder, Abraham Burton, Ellery Eskelin, Keefe Jackson, Noah Preminger, David Sanchez, Grant Stewart, Marcus Strickland, Kamasi Washington.

Some other missing tenor saxophonists (beyond the two I wrote in): Rodrigo Amado, Gabriel Amargant, Chris Byars, Avram Fefer, Ochion Jewell, James Brandon Lewis, Jonathan Moritz, Bryan Murray, Hilary Noble, Matt Parker, Adam Pieronczyk, Matt Renzi, Assif Tsahar, Rob Wagner.

Baritone Saxophone: Hamiet Bluiett (5), Scott Robinson (3), Brian Landrus (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, -Brian Landrus, Chad Makela, Adam Schroeder, Josh Sinton, Gebhard Ullmann.

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

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

Rising Star Clarinet: Avram Fefer (5), Mort Weiss (3), Rudi Mahall (2).

First pass: Avram Fefer, Darryl Harper, François Houle, Rudi Mahall, Ned Rothenberg, 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).

First pass: Kali Z. Fasteau, no one else (maybe Steve Adams). As I said last year, there are more good tuba players than flutists in jazz. The category should be folded into miscellaneous instruments. Fasteau, by the way, mostly plays other instruments, and most of her flutes are exotic, and she's not all that young (68?). I haven't heard of half of the nominees. I can't remember Adams playing flute -- it's 7th on my list of his instruments.

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

First pass: Geri Allen, Kenny Barron, George Cables, Uri Caine, Bill Charlap, 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. Some other names not on the ballot: Muhal Richard Abrams, Ran Blake, Carla Bley, Dave Burrell, Cooper-Moore, Hal Galper, Vyacheslav Ganelin, Guus Janssen, Pandelis Karayorgis, Roger Kellaway, Joachim Kühn, Steve Kuhn, Howard Riley, Michele Rosewoman, Irene Schweizer, Martial Solal, Aki Takase, Keith Tippett, Albert Van Veenendaal, Yosuke Yamashita.

Rising Star Piano: Kris Davis (5), Nik Bärtsch (3), Ehud Asherie (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, -David Virelles, Peter Zak.

Some more names not on the ballot: Bill Carrothers, Neil Cowley, Alexander Hawkins, Chris Hopkins, Michael McNeill, Harold O'Neal, Sergi Sirvent, Nobu Stowe, Håvard Wiik.

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: Nik Bärtsch (5), Russ Lossing (3), Kit Downes (2).

First pass: Nik Bartsch, 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, 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: Marc Ribot (5), Mary Halvorson (3), Howard Alden (2).

First pass: Rez Abbasi, John Abercrombie, Howard Alden, Peter Bernstein, Nels Cline, "Jonathan Ellman" (don't they mean 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. I wrote in Marty Grosz last year.

Rising Star Guitar: Samo Salamon (5), Raoul Björkenheim (3), Liberty Ellman (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. Some more names: Eivind Aarset, On Ka'a Davis, Scott DuBois, Terrie Ex, Nir Felder, Gordon Grdina, Jostein Gulbrandsen, Ross Hammond, Luis Lopes, Terrence McManus, Miles Okazaki, Mark O'Leary, Kevin O'Neil, Rich Rosenthal, Samo Salamon, Billy Stein, Johnny Valentino. I wrote Salamon in last year, again this year. Also a second list of older guitarists who arguably belong on one ballot or the other: Joe Diorio, Pierre Dørge, Marc Ducret, James Emery, Scott Fields, Marty Grosz, Billy Jenkins, Jim McAuley, Dom Minasi, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Doug Raney, Reg Schwager, Brad Shepik, John Stowell, Martin Taylor, David Torn, Ralph Towner, Ulf Wakenius.

Bass: William Parker (5), John Hébert (3), Ken Filiano (2).

First pass: Ben Allison, Arild Andersen, Omer Avital, 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, Linda Oh, William Parker, Gary Peacock, Eric Revis, Peter Washington, Reggie Workman. Lots of good choices here, but I looked in vain for Ken Filiano (both here and below), finally bumping Mark Dresser to write his name in.

Rising Star Bass: Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (5), Moppa Elliott (3). Adam Lane (2).

First pass: Joshua Abrams, Pablo Aslan, Harrison Bankhead, Michael Bates, Carlos Bica, Greg Cohen, John Edwards, Moppa Elliott, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Devin Hoff, Adam Lane, Joelle Leandre, Lisa Mezzacappa, Thomas Morgan, Eric Revis, Per Zanussi. I wrote Filiano in here last year. Just found out he's 63, so I moved him up. Doesn't have a great discography on his own, but he makes everyone he plays with much better.

Electric Bass: Steve Swallow (5), Bob Cranshaw (3), Jamaaladeen Tacuma (2).

First pass: Avishai Cohen, Bob Cranshaw, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, 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: Szilard Mezei, Diane Monroe, Mary Oliver, Rob Thomas, Aaron Weinstein, Jesse Zubot.

Drums: Gerry Hemingway (5), Andrew Cyrille (3), Matt Wilson (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, Roy Haynes, Gerry Hemingway, John Hollenbeck, 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), Mike Reed (3), Tom Rainey (2).

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, Chad Taylor, Dan Weiss. Probably lots of omissions but Rainey is especially conspicuous.

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.

Vibes: Joe Locke (5), Jason Adasiewicz (3), Kenny Wolleson (2).

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

Rising Star Vibes: Mulatu Astatke (5), Kevin Norton (3), Bryan Carrott (2).

First pass: Mulatu Astatke, -Bryan Carrott, Khan Jamal, Kevin Norton, Mark Sherman.

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), Jason Stein (bass clarinet) (3), Tomeka Reid (cello) (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). I've written Cooper-Moore (diddley bow) in several times.

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

First pass: Dee Alexander, Ernestine Anderson [RIP], 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), Yaala Ballin (2).

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

Male Vocalist: Freddy Cole (5), James Blood Ulmer (3), Mose Allison (2).

First pass: Mose Allison, 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: Intakt (5), Clean Feed (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, 2014 to March 31, 2015): The Ragpicker String Band, The Ragpicker String Band (Yellow Dog) (5). Only A- blues (roughly speaking) albums I heard last year.

Other records on the ballot that I've heard (4 + 1 above, out of 68 total, 7.4%):

  • Hugo Fernandez, Cosmogram (Origin) [**]
  • Charlie Parr, Stumpjumper (Red House) [**]
  • Dave & Phil Alvin, Lost Time (Yep Roc) [*]
  • Guy Davis, Kokomo Kidd (M.C.) [*]

Records on the ballot that I haven't heard (63, or 92.6%):

  • Slam Allen, Feel These Blues (American Showplace)
  • Eric Bibb & JJ Milteau, Lead Belly's Gold (Stony Plain)
  • Amy Black, The Muscle Shoals Sessions (Reuben)
  • Joe Bonamassa, Blues of Desperation (J&R Adventures)
  • Georgie Bonds, Hit It Hard (Roadhouse Redemption)
  • Jimmy Burns, It Ain't Right (Delmark)
  • Sam Butler, Raise Your Hands! (Severn)
  • Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams (Red House)
  • Toronzo Cannon, The Chicago Way (Alligator)
  • The Cash Box Kings, Holding Court (Blind Pig)
  • Tommy Castro, Method to My Madness (Alligator)
  • Gary Clark Jr., The Story of Sonny Boy Slim (Warner Bros.)
  • Christian Collin, Spirit of the Blues (C-Train)
  • Shemekia Copeland, Outskirts of Love (Alligator)
  • Robert Cray Band, 4 Nights of 40 Years Live (Mascot/Provogue)
  • Heather Crosse, Groovin' at the Crosse Roads (Ruf)
  • Albert Cummings, Someone Like You (Blind Pig)
  • Dalannah & Owen, Been Around a While (Quest)
  • Voo Davis, Midnight Mist (Butter & Bacon)
  • Delta Moon, Low Down (Jumping Jack)
  • Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, Father's Day (Stony Plain)
  • Andra Faye & Scott Ballantine, Coulda Woulda Shoulda (VizzTone)
  • Anthony Geraci, Fifty Shades of Blue (Delta Groove)
  • Henry Gray & Bob Corritore, Blues Won't Let Me Take My Rest (Delta Groove)
  • Buddy Guy, Born to Play Guitar (RCA)
  • James Harman, Bonetime (Electro-Fi)
  • Ironing Board Sam, Super Spirit (Big Legal Mess)
  • JeConte, Down by the Bayou (Red Parlor)
  • The Jimmys, Hot Dish (Brown Cow)
  • Guy King, Truth (Delmark)
  • Sonny Landreth, Bound by the Blues (Mascot)
  • King Louie & LaRhonda Steele, Rock Me Baby (self-released)
  • Karen Lovely, Ten Miles of Bad Road (Kokako)
  • Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersrud, Tears of the World (ACT)
  • Beth McKee, Sugarcane Revival (Swampgirl)
  • Charlie Musselwhite, I Ain't Lyin' (Henrietta)
  • Paul Nelson Band, Badass Generation (Friday Music/Sony)
  • Danielle Nicole, Wolf Den (Concord)
  • The Nightowls, Fame Sessions (SuperSonic)
  • Jeff Plankenhorn, SoulSlide (Lounge Side)
  • Billy Price & Otis Clay, This Time for Real (Bonedog/VizzTone)
  • Lara Price, I Mean Business (Price Productions)
  • Johnny Rawls, Tiger in a Cage (Catfood)
  • Rev. Freakchild, Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues (Treated & Released)
  • Julie Rhodes, Bound to Meet the Devil (self-released)
  • Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Tengo Blues (JRCD)
  • Tad Robinson, Day Into Night (Severn)
  • Arlen Roth, Slide Guitar Summit (Aquinnah)
  • Deb Ryder, Let It Rain (Bejeb Music)
  • Mighty Mike Schermer, Blues in Good Hands (VizzTone)
  • Otis Taylor, Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat (Trance Blues)
  • Keith Stone, The Prodigal Returns (self-released)
  • The Texas Horns, Blues Gotta Holda Me (Vizz-Tone)
  • Walter Trout, Battle Scars (Provogue)
  • Brad Vickers, That's What They Say (Man Hat Tone)
  • Jason Vivone & the Billy Bats, The Avenue (self-released)
  • Wee Willie Walker, If Nothing Ever Changes (Little Village Foundation)
  • Tim Williams, So Low (Lowden Proud)
  • Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators, Happiness in Every Style (Timmion)
  • Mitch Woods, Jammin' on the High Cs (Club 88)
  • Chris Yakopcic, The Next Place I Leave (Yako)
  • God Don't Never Change: Songs of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator)
  • Muddy Waters 100 (MRI)

Beyond Artist of Group: Kendrick Lamar (5), Laurie Anderson (3), Leonard Cohen (2).

First pass: Laurie Anderson, Arcade Fire, Erykah Badu, -Mary J. Blige, Courtney Barnett, Beyoncé, David Bowie [RIP], Rosanne Cash, Leonard Cohen, -Ry Cooder, D'Angelo, Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Flying Lotus, Aretha Franklin, Grimes, -Merle Haggard [RIP], Jamie XX, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kendrick Lamar, Nellie McKay, Miguel, Janelle Monáe, Ashley Monroe, Mountain Goats, Kasey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Frank Ocean, Bonnie Raitt, Rihanna, The Roots, -Raphael Saadiq, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, Richard Thompson, Tinariwen, Allen Toussaint [RIP], Tom Waits, Kanye West, Lucinda Williams, Stevie Wonder, Yo La Tengo, Neil Young.

Beyond Album (April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015): Ashley Monroe, The Blade (Warner Bros. Nashville) (5); Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion (604/Schoolboy/Interscope) (3); Mountain Goats, Beat the Champ (Merge) (2). This is limited to their ballot, and I just mechanically went down my 2015 non-jazz list for these picks (numbers 16, 19, and 29, so it feels strange to single them out, but the next ones down would have been 47 Mbongwana Star, 48 Grimes, and 49 Donnie Trumpet). My top Q1 2016 picks from their ballot are BJ the Chicago Kid and Anderson .Paak, and I doubt they rank that high -- they're currently 4-5 (out of 9).

Other records on the ballot that I've heard (49 out of 90 total, 54.4%, way down from 81.0% last year -- at least partly because the ballot grew from 58 to 90 records, and partly, I suspect, because a higher share are Q1 2016):

  • Anderson .Paak, Malibu (Steel Wool -16) [A-]
  • BJ the Chicago Kid, In My Mind (Motown -16) [A-]
  • Future, Evol (A1/Freebandz/Epic) [A-]
  • Grimes, Art Angels (4AD) [A-]
  • Mbongwana Star, From Kinshasa (World Circuit) [A-]
  • Bonnie Raitt, Dig In Deep (Redwing -16) [A-]
  • Rihanna, Anti (Westbury Road/Roc Nation) [A-]
  • Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment, Surf (self-released) [A-]
  • David Bowie, Blackstar (Columbia -16) [***]
  • Brandi Carlile, The Firewatcher's Daughter (ATO) [***]
  • Deerhunter, Fading Frontier (4AD) [***]
  • Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon (Interscope/Polydor) [***]
  • Kendrick Lamar, Untitled Unmastered (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope -16) [***]
  • Miguel, Wildheart (ByStorm/RCA) [***]
  • Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material (Mercury Nashville) [***]
  • Vince Staples, Summertime '06 (Def Jam/ARTium/Blacksmith) [***]
  • Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty) [***]
  • Kanye West, Life of Pablo (GOOD/Def Jam -16) [***]
  • Wilco, Star Wars (dPbm Records) [***]
  • Jamie xx, In Colour (Young Turks) [***]
  • Yo La Tengo, Stuff Like That There (Matador) [***]
  • Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood (EMI Nashville) [**]
  • Chvrches, Every Eye Open (Virgin EMI) [**]
  • Colleen, Captain of None (Thrill Jockey) [**]
  • The Internet, Ego Death (Odd Future/Columbia) [**]
  • Loretta Lynn, Full Circle (Sony Legacy -16) [**]
  • Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (Atlantic) [**]
  • Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color (ATO/Maple Music/Rough Trade) [*]
  • Cee-Lo Green, Heart Blanche (Atlantic) [*]
  • Chris Stapleton, Traveller (Mercury Nashville) [*]
  • Hop Along, Painted Shut (Saddle Creek) [*]
  • Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free (Southeastern) [*]
  • Janet Jackson, Unbreakable (Rhythm Nation/BMG) [*]
  • Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats (Stax) [*]
  • Tame Impala, Currents (Modular/Universal/Fiction/Interscope) [*]
  • Tenement, Predatory Headlights (Don Giovanni) [*]
  • The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness (XO/Republic) [*]
  • Beach House, Depression Cherry (Sub Pop) [B]
  • Beach Slang, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us (Polyvinyl) [B]
  • Florence and the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Island) [B]
  • Willie Nelson, Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin (Sony Legacy -16) [B]
  • Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge) [B]
  • Kurt Vile, B'Lieve I'm Goin Down . . . (Matador) [B]
  • Dawes, All Your Favorite Bands (HUB) [B-]
  • Fetty Wap, Fetty Wap (RGF/300) [B-]
  • Jen Shyu, Sounds and Cries of the World (Pi) [B-]

Records on the ballot that I haven't heard (41/90, 45.6%):

  • The 1975, I Like It When You Sleep . . . (Polydor)
  • Ryan Adams, 1989 (PAX AM)
  • Adele, 25 (XL/Columbia)
  • Animal Collective, Painting With (Domino)
  • Eric Bachmann, Eric Bachmann (Merge)
  • Boots, Aquaria (Columbia)
  • Vinicius Cantuária, Vinicius Canta Antonio Carlos Jobim (Sunnyside)
  • Coldplay, A Head Full of Dreams (Parlophone/Atlantic)
  • Mac DeMarco, Another One (Captured Tracks)
  • Dr. Dog, The Psychedelic Swamp (Anti-)
  • Foxes, All I Need (Sign of the Times)
  • Kevin Gates, Islah (Breadwinners' Association/Atlantic)
  • Billy Gibbons & the BFG's, Perfectamundo (Concord)
  • Grupo Fantasma, Problemas (Blue Corn)
  • Lalah Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway Live! (eOne Music)
  • Into It. Over It., Standards (Triple Crown)
  • Jeremih, Late Nights (Mick Schultz/Def Jam)
  • John Jorgenson, Divertuoso/From the Crow's Nest (Cleopatra)
  • Seckou Keita, 22 Strings/Cordes (ARC)
  • Son Little, Son Little (Anti-)
  • Jeff Lynne's ELO, Alone in the Universe (Columbia)
  • Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, So Familiar (Rounder)
  • Anna Meredith, Varmints (Moshi Moshi)
  • Darlene Love, Introducing Darline Love (Wicked Cool/Columbia)
  • Mothers, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired (Grand Jury Music)
  • Bob Mould, Patch the Sky (Merge)
  • My Morning Jacket, The Waterfall (ATO/Capitol)
  • Joanna Newsome, Divers (Drag City)
  • Pinegrove, Cardinal (Run for Cover)
  • The Range, Potential (Domino)
  • Savages, Adore Life (Matador)
  • School of Seven Bells, SVIIB (Vagrant)
  • Ty Segall, Emotional Mugger (Drag City)
  • Sia, This Is Acting (Monkey)
  • Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal, Musique De Nuit (Six Degrees)
  • Mavis Staples, Livin' on a High Note (Anti-/Epitaph)
  • Tindersticks, The Waiting Room (City Slang)
  • Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface (Fueled by Ramen)
  • Underworld, Barbara, Barbara We Face a Shining Future (Caroline)
  • Ventanas, Arrelumbre (Fedora Upside Down)
  • Lucinda Williams, The Ghosts of Highway 20 (Highway 20)

Post-Poll Comments

I published the following in my July 17 Music Week post.

Some brief notes on Downbeat's Critics Poll results, posted in their August 2016 issue:

  • Number of critics voting: 142. In a quick scan of the voter names I recognized 54 as former Jazz Critics Poll voters, so a little less than 40% (a little more than 40% of JCP voters). Most of the others were associated with Downbeat, and I recognized very few of them. I didn't notice any affiliations outside of the US. (JCP probably has less than ten, something I've lobbied to expand, but at least they've got more than zero.)
  • Randy Weston won the HOF slot, finishing ahead of Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, and Pharoah Sanders. He wasn't high on my list, but I'm still pretty pleased with that result. Weston is 90 this year, had a pretty good record as recently as 2013 (The Roots of the Blues). I count four A- records in my database: Blue Moses (1972), Carnival (1974), The Spirits of Our Ancestors (1991), and Khepara (1998). I should probably dig deeper. Mal Waldron and Cedar Walton shouldn't be far behind, but will be as they've passed and been buried with everyone else Downbeat's schema has missed.
  • The Veterans Committee added Hoagy Carmichael to their HOF. I think of him mostly as a songwriter, but he sang and played piano and I can heartily recommend RCA's 1994 compilation of Stardust and Much More (1927-34). Runner up was George Gershwin, and if he can't make it it's going to be a long road for the next dozen or so obvious standards writers. Only two other candidates were listed: Scott LaFaro and Herbie Nichols. I have very little sense of LaFaro beyond the obvious point that he played on Bill Evans' best trio recordings (especially Live at the Village Vanguard, recorded ten days before LaFaro's fatal car crash, age 25). Nichols lived to be 44, but only recorded in his 1955-57 trios: three CDs on Blue Note, one on Bethlehem, all brilliant.
  • Downbeat skews Album of the Year by three months, which kicked JCP winner Rudresh Mahanthappa's Bird Calls off the ballot. Maria Schneider's The Thompson Fields had virtually tied Mahanthappa, but fell way behind here, finishing second to Kamasi Washington's crossover hit The Epic. I've complained about the skew before (actually, every time I've mentioned it): what would it hurt to give critics an extra three months to get some more perspective on last year's records? (For that matter, why not give the Readers' Poll voters an extra six months?). For the record, the top early 2016 release in the poll was Charles Lloyd's I Long to See You (6th), followed by Michael Formanek's The Distance (9th). Neither strikes me as an A-list record, although they're on labels that get noticed. On the other hand, I only had one A-list album finish in the top 20: Henry Threadgill's In for a Penny, in for a Pound (4th), and only two more in the next 20: Amir ElSaffar's Crisis and Joe Lovano's Sound Prints.
  • For the last twenty years or so Trumpet has been a contest between Wynton Marsalis and Dave Douglas, but that seems to be over now as they finished 5th and 4th this year, topped by new winner Ambrose Akinmusire, followed by Tom Harrell and Wadada Leo Smith. I've voted for Smith myself, haven't had access to Harrell in recent years (and have never been much of a fan), and have no idea what other critics hear in Akinmusire.
  • Perennial Piano winner Keith Jarrett dropped to 12th place this year, below Robert Glasper and Matthew Shipp. Kenny Barron won, followed by Vijay Iyer and Fred Hersch -- reasonable picks. Jarrett's tailed off a bit, but I still count an A- record as recent as 2013's Somewhere (OK, recorded in 2009), and doesn't everyone else like him more than I do?
  • I'm a bit bothered that Ken Vandermark didn't make the Tenor Sax list -- more so than that David Murray, who hasn't released a record in a few years, has dropped to 16th. May just mean that Vandermark is spreading himself too thin: he did finish 9th for Baritone Sax and 16th for Clarinet. Peter Brötzmann did make the Tenor list (17th), but not Evan Parker (13th on Soprano).
  • Most egregious non-finish is that William Parker didn't make the top 21 for Bass. Leaders: Christian McBride, Dave Holland, Ron Carter, Linda Oh, Stanley Clarke, Esperanza Spalding. No kidding.
  • Top record labels: ECM, Pi, Blue Note, Mack Avenue, Motéma, Clean Feed, Sunnyside, HighNote. I only get physical CDs from two of those labels -- coincidentally two that I voted for. If other critics are as corruptible (or grateful) as I am, the standings probably give you a fair measure of what they're listening to, and you'll probably find that reflected in what they voted for.
  • Top "Beyond" albums: David Bowie, Kendrick Lamar, Mavis Staples, Alabama Shakes, Lucinda Williams. Only in Downbeat.
  • Probably the less said about the Rising Star categories, the better. I will note that last year's RS Guitar winner, Michael Blum, who had written personal letters to me and other critics imploring us for our votes, dropped off the list completely this year (Liberty Ellman won, followed by twenty mostly reasonable names ending with Jeff Parker). Also, most surprising winner -- even more so than the flautist I've never heard of (Elena Pinderhughes) -- was Khan Jamal for vibes. Not a bad choice, it's just that he's 70 now, and I haven't heard anything by him in decades (although I see he has a 2009 album on SteepleChase). Also speaking of late-bloomers, Mort Weiss (81) finished 11th in Clarinet, and Kali Fasteau (69) 3rd in flute (she actually plays ney).

Downbeat Readers Poll

Added August 10, 2016:

Voted today in Downbeat's Readers Poll: link here, go ahead and vote. Didn't intend on posting this, but took notes and finally decided my ballot might be of some small interest. In the Reader's Poll you only get one vote in each category. They conduct the poll using Survey Monkey, offering you a ballot of many suggestions for each category (usually two to five dozen, but up to 186 for Best Album) and the option to write something in. I almost always vote from the ballot, especially for albums even though my own lists prefer many things they left out. I list the categories below, my pick in bold (or bold italic for write-ins), followed by a few ballot items that I jotted down as possibilities on the first pass. Rarely I add a comment.

This is much quicker than filling out their Critics Poll ballot. My notes on that experience are here.

  • Hall of Fame: Anthony Braxton; Han Bennink, Paul Bley, Don Byas, Don Cherry, Abdullah Ibrahim, Illinois Jacquet, Professor Longhair, Sam Rivers, George Russell, Pharoah Sanders, Cedar Walton. (I usually pick Russell, but thought Braxton might have more chance. Obvious write-in candidates: Louis Jordan, Jimmy Rushing, Mal Waldron.)
  • Jazz Artist: Henry Threadgill; Anthony Braxton, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Douglas, Fred Hersch, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Wadada Leo Smith, Ken Vandermark.
  • Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing; The Bad Plus, Microscopic Septet, Rova. (Write-in here. I generally don't like voting for artist name groups, and these made up approx. 90% of the ballot, so I thought an act of rebellion was in order.)
  • Big Band: Ken Vandermark Resonance Ensemble; Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra, Either/Orchestra, ICP Orchestra, London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Vienna Art Orchestra. (Another write-in, doesn't always bear Vandermark's name, but let's be clear. Haven't noticed the other candidates being very active.)
  • Jazz Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Henry Threadgill, Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi '16); other A- on ballot: Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers Ensemble, Crisis (Pi); Barry Altschul 3dom Factor, Tales of the Unforeseen (TUM); Erik Friedlander, Oscalypso (Skipstone); Fred Hersch, Solo (Palmetto); Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison, In Movement (ECM '16); Liberty Ellman, Radiate (Pi); Matthew Shipp Trio, The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear); Mike Reed's People, Places & Things, A New Kind of Dance (482 Music); Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup); Nate Wooley Quintet, (Dance To) The Early Music (Clean Feed); Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, Artifacts (482 Music); Noah Preminger, Pivot: Live At 55 Bar (self release); Ochion Jewell Quartet, VOLK (self release); Sonny Rollins, Holding The Stage: Road Shows, Vol. 4 (Doxy/OKeh).
  • Two full A albums not on ballot: Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (Intakt 8/15); Aly Keita/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalo-Yele (Intakt 1/16). Only one Intakt album on ballot (Aruan Ortiz); guess they had to save room for: Concord/Telarc/MCG Jazz (11), ECM (11), Blue Note (10), Mack Avenue (10), Smoke Sessions (9), Sunnyside (9), Columbia/OKeh (7), HighNote/Savant (7), Motema (7). Clean Feed (5) did best among imports (after ECM, which is distributed by Universal in US so is really in a different league). Pi placed four records; they released six albums in 2015 and four so far this year.
  • Historical Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings at the Village Vanguard (Resonance); other A- records: Blind Alfred Reed, Appalachian Visionary (Dust to Digital '16); Bobby Rush, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush (Omnivore); Erroll Garner, The Complete Concert by the Sea (Sony Legacy); Miles Davis, Miles Davis At Newport: 1955-1975 The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy); Various Artists, The Rough Guide to the Blues Songsters (Rough Guide).
  • Trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith; Ralph Alessi, Steven Bernstein, Dave Douglas, Ingrid Jensen, Kirk Knuffke, Brian Lynch, Tomasz Stanko.
  • Trombone: Roswell Rudd; Ray Anderson, Jeb Bishop, Joe Fiedler, George Lewis, Phil Ranelin, Steve Swell.
  • Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome; Jan Garbarek, Evan Parker, Bob Wilber.
  • Alto Saxophone: François Carrier; Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Marty Ehrlich, Jon Irabagon, Lee Konitz, Oliver Lake, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Joe McPhee, Charles McPherson, Ted Nash, Henry Threadgill, Bobby Watson, Miguel Zenón, John Zorn.
  • Tenor Saxophone: Ivo Perelman; Harry Allen, JD Allen, Peter Brötzmann, James Carter, Charles Gayle, George Garzone, Jon Irabagon, Joe Lovano, Tony Malaby, Joe McPhee, David Murray, Larry Ochs, Evan Parker, Houston Person, Chris Potter, Ken Vandermark.
  • Baritone Saxophone: Brian Landrus; Hamiet Bluiett, Vinny Golia, Mats Gustafsson, Scott Robinson, Colin Stetson, Joe Temperley, Ken Vandermark.
  • Clarinet: Michael Moore; Evan Christopher, Anat Cohen, Eddie Daniels, Marty Ehrlich, Ben Goldberg, David Krakauer, Michel Portal, Perry Robinson, Louis Sclavis.
  • Flute: Nicole Mitchell.
  • Piano: Myra Melford; Kenny Barron, George Cables, Uri Caine, Marilyn Crispell, Satoko Fujii, David Hazeltine, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ethan Iverson, Vijay Iyer, Keith Jarrett, Misha Mengelberg, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Matthew Shipp, Craig Taborn. Huge ballot omission (was tempted to write her in): Irène Schweizer.
  • Keyboard: Jamie Saft; Nik Bärtsch, Uri Caine, Wayne Horvitz, John Medeski, Matthew Shipp, Craig Taborn, Gary Versace.
  • Organ: Gary Versace; Brian Charette, Mike LeDonne.
  • Guitar: Mary Halvorson; Rez Abbasi, John Abercrombie, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, Bill Frisell, Joe Morris, Marc Ribot.
  • Bass: William Parker; Ben Allison, Arild Andersen, Omer Avital, Stephan Crump, Mark Dresser, Michael Formanek, Drew Gress, John Hébert, Mark Helias, Dave Holland, Marc Johnson, Eric Revis, Peter Washington, Reggie Workman.
  • Electric Bass: Steve Swallow.
  • Violin: Jenny Scheinman; Charles Burnham, Jason Kao Hwang, Carlos Zingaro.
  • Drums: Andrew Cyrille; Han Bennink, Jim Black, Gerald Cleaver, Jack DeJohnette, Hamid Drake, Gerry Hemingway, John Hollenbeck, Lewis Nash, Bobby Previte, Matt Wilson.
  • Vibraphone: Karl Berger; Jason Adasiewicz, Khan Jamal, Joe Locke, Matt Moran, Warren Smith.
  • Percussion: Han Bennink; Kahil El'Zabar, Marilyn Mazur, Adam Rudolph, Warren Smith, Dan Weiss.
  • Miscellaneous Instrument: Erik Friedlander (cello); Rabih Abou-Khalil (oud), Edmar Castaneda (Colombian harp), Howard Johnson (tuba), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Grégoire Maret (harmonica), David Murray (bass clarinet), Bob Stewart (tuba).
  • Male Vocalist: Freddy Cole.
  • Female Vocalist: Catherine Russell; Ernestine Anderson, Patricia Barber, Sheila Jordan, Diana Krall, René Marie, Mary Stallings, Fay Victor.
  • Composer: Carla Bley; Ben Allison, Steve Lehman, Henry Threadgill, John Zorn.
  • Arranger: Steven Bernstein.
  • Record Label: Intakt; Clean Feed, Delmark, No Business, Pi Recordings, anyone that sends me promos.
  • Blues Artist or Group: Dave & Phil Alvin; Guy Davis, Taj Mahal, Otis Taylor, James Blood Ulmer.
  • Blues Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Various Artists, God Don't Never Change: Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator); only other A- record: The Ragpicker String Band, The Ragpicker String Band (Yellow Dog).
  • Beyond Artist or Group: Laurie Anderson; Erykah Badu, Courtney Barnett, Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, Leonard Cohen, Flying Lotus, Future, Grimes, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kendrick Lamar, Willie Nelson, Parquet Courts, Rihanna, The Roots, Tinariwen, Kanye West, Neil Young.
  • Beyond Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Parquet Courts, Human Performance (Rough Trade '16); other A- records: Aesop Rock, The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers '16); Anderson .Paak, Malibu (Steel Wool '16); Ashley Monroe, The Blade (Warner Bros. Nashville); BJ The Chicago Kid, In My Mind (Motown '16); Bonnie Raitt, Dig In Deep (Redwing '16); Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion (604/Schoolboy/Interscope); Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book (self release '16); Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone (Motown/Control Freaq); Ezra Furman, Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union); Grimes, Art Angels (4AD); Rihanna, Anti (Westbury Road/Roc Nation '16).

I copied the full album ballots into the notebook as a check on how much I've heard (and still have to dig up). Of 186 new jazz albums, I've heard 112 (60.21%), grades breaking: [A-] 15, [***] 26, [**] 35, [*] 20, [B] 10, [B-] 4, [C+] 1, [C] 1, [C-] 1. I could do the same thing for Historical and Blues but my cut is extremely low. I have nothing to say about Beyond other than that records so labeled aren't what we used to call "far out."