Downbeat Critics Poll: 2021

I voted on April 19, 2020. I keep track of what I've done in this file, which started off as an edit on last year's file. In past years, I've been known to spend a couple days sorting through the many ballot questions, but lately I've been cutting corners. Never more so than this year, where I completed 4.25 hours after starting (minus an errand, that probably means I raced through it in less than 3 hours). For the category questions, that usually means I voted for the same people as last year. Big change this year was that I stuck to the ballot, with hardly any write-in votes (bold/italic below).

My usual practice is to first scan through the nominees, and jot down any that strike me as likely. I'd also add some names that I felt should have been nominated (but I didn't that this year; any such names below were carried over from previous notes). Some of the categories, like Jazz Artist, I find annoyingly undefined, and some, like Jazz Group, horribly cluttered. Some instrument slots are hugely competitive (e.g., piano, bass, drums), and some are so sparse or marginal (flute) I don't care for anyone. Some (electric bass and keyboards, soprano sax) are mostly populated by artists who mostly play something else -- limit yourself to specialists and they become as marginal as flautists.


Notes on my voting for Downbeat's 2021 Critics Poll. The voting was conducted using SurveyMonkey. For each of 50-some questions, they provided an extensive list of nominees, but also allowed write-ins. Those I voted for are in bold. The write-ins are in bold italic. The survey allowed for splitting ten votes among two or three candidates. I generally split my vote 5-3-2.

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

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

Hall of Fame: Excludes previous winners, including 2020 winners: Mildred Bailey (V), George Benson (R), Jimmy Heath (C), Carmen McRae (V). My votes: Anthony Braxton (5), Abdullah Ibrahim (3), Illinois Jacquet (2). Two musicians I voted for last year were missing from the ballot: George Russell and Roswell Rudd. Also note that they dropped Tomasz Stanko.

First pass: on ballot I considered voting for: Kenny Barron, Carla Bley, Paul Bley, Anthony Braxton, Jaki Byard, Jack DeJohnette, Bill Frisell, Jan Garbarek, Jimmy Giuffre, Grant Green, Dave Holland, Abdullah Ibrahim, Illinois Jacquet, Charles Lloyd, Professor Longhair, John McLaughlin, Tito Puente, Pharoah Sanders.

In previous years I've taken the time to come up with long lists of people who aren't on the ballot but should be.

Jazz Artist: I assume this is someone who did monumental work during the last year or two, but I never quite know what that means. Anthony Braxton (5), Matthew Shipp (3), Mary Halvorson (2). Previous votes not on ballot: Satoko Fujii, William Parker, Ken Vandermark.

First pass: Anthony Braxton, Kris Davis, Dave Douglas, Mary Halvorson, Fred Hersch, Dave Holland, Myra Melford, Matthew Shipp, Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, Miguel Zenon, John Zorn.

Rising Star -- Jazz Artist: Jon Irabagon (5), Peter Evans (3), Mike Reed (2).

First pass: Josephine Davies, Peter Evans, -Shabaka Hutchings, Jon Irabagon, Makaya McCraven, Hedvig Mollestad, Jason Palmer, Mike Reed, Tomeka Reid, Jenny Scheinman, Marcus Strickland, -Kevin Sun, David Virelles.

Jazz Album of the Year (April 1, 2020-March 31, 2021):

  • Rudresh Mahanthappa, Hero Trio (Whirlwind) (5)
  • Thumbscrew, The Anthony Braxton Project (Cuneiform) (3)
  • Brad Mehldau, Suite: April 2020 (Nonesuch) (2)

Other A-list albums on ballot:

  • Matthew Shipp, Unidentifiable (ESP Disk)
  • Hedvig Mollestad, Ekhidna (Rune Grammofon)
  • Angelica Sánchez/Marilyn Crispell, How To Turn The Moon (Pyroclastic)
  • Eric Revis, Slipknots Through A Looking Glass (Pyroclastic)
  • Binker and Moses, Escape The Flames (Gearbox)

Historical Album (April 1, 2020-March 31, 2021):

  • Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions, 1976 (Dark Tree) (5)
  • Mike Westbrook ft John Surman, Love And Understanding (Citadel/Rpoom 315 Sweden '74) (My Only Desire) (3)
  • Sonny Rollins, Rollins in Holland (Resonance) (2)

Other A-list records nominated:

  • Thelonious Monk, Palo Alto (Impulse!)
  • Charles Mingus, Charles Mingus @ Bremen (Sunnyside)

Both of these lists are a small subset of my Best Jazz of 2020 lists (84 new albums, 13 reissues/archival albums).

Jazz Group: Sons of Kemet (5), Shabaka & the Ancestors (3), Allison Miller Boom Tic Bom (2).

First pass: Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids, Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom, Shabaka and the Ancestors, Sons of Kemet.

Rising Star Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing (5), Irreversible Entanglements (3), Thumbscrew (2).

First pass: Binker And Moses, Irreversible Entanglements, Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Shabaka & the Ancestors, Sons of Kemet, The Thing, Thumbscrew.

Big Band: Satoko Fujii Orchestra (5), Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra (3), Sun Ra Arkestra (2).

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

Rising Star Big Band: Webber/Morris Big Band (5), Ghost Train Orchestra (3), Vince Giordano's Nighthawks (2).

First pass: There must be some better choices somewhere.

Trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith (5), Dave Douglas (3), Taylor Ho Bynum (2). [same]

First pass: Ralph Alessi, Steven Bernstein, Taylor Ho Bynum, Dave Douglas, Jonathan Finlayson, Kirk Knuffke, Brian Lynch, Wynton Marsalis, Rob Mazurek, Ron Miles, -Nils Petter Molvaer, Enrico Rava, -Randy Sandke, Wadada Leo Smith, Terrell Stafford, -Natsuki Tamura, David Weiss.

Rising Star Trumpet: Peter Evans (5), Jonathan Finlayson (3), Joshua Berman (2).

First pass: Joshua Berman, -Jaimie Branch, Peter Evans, -Darren Johnston, -Russ Johnson, -Matt Lavelle, Nate Wooley.

Trombone: Steve Swell (5), Joe Fiedler (3), Jeb Bishop (2). [same]

First pass: Ray Anderson, Dan Barrett, Jeb Bishop, Luis Bonilla, Steve Davis, Joe Fiedler, Curtis Fowlkes, Jacob Garchik, Curtis Hasselbring, George Lewis, Phil Ranelin, Steve Swell, David Taylor, Steve Turre, Bill Watrous [RIP], Wolter Wierbos.

Rising Star Trombone: Samuel Blaser (5), Michael Dessen (3), Mats Aleklint (2).

First pass: Mats Aleklint, Samuel Blaser, Michael Dessen, Alan Ferber, -Rafi Malkiel, JC Sanford, Joey Sellers.

As of this point, I'm sick and tired and don't care any more, so I'll just repeat last year's picks (as far as I can).

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

First pass: Bruce Ackley, Jane Ira Bloom, John Butcher, Jan Garbarek, Vinny Golia, Dave Liebman, Roscoe Mitchell, Sam Newsome, Evan Parker, Wayne Shorter, Steve Slagle, Bob Wilber, Steve Wilson.

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

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

Alto Saxophone: François Carrier (5), Oliver Lake (3), Miguel Zenón (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, Lee Konitz, Oliver Lake, Jeff Lederer, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Joe McPhee, Charles McPherson, Michael Moore, Ted Nash, Greg Osby, Steve Slagle, Jim Snidero, Henry Threadgill, Bobby Watson, Steve Wilson, Miguel Zenón, John Zorn.

Rising Star Alto Saxophone: Dave Rempis (5), Andrew D'Angelo (3). Mike DiRubbo (2).

First pass: Dmitri Baevsky, Andrew D'Angelo, Mike DiRubbo, Benjamin Herman, Peter Van Huffel, Dave Rempis, Matana Roberts, Aram Shelton, Greg Ward.

Tenor Saxophone: James Brandon Lewis (5), JD Allen (3), Jon Irabagon (2). Last time wrote in: Ken Vandermark.

First pass: Eric Alexander, Harry Allen, JD Allen, Jerry Bergonzi, Michael Blake, Seamus Blake, Peter Brötzmann, James Carter, Ellery Eskelin, Joel Frahm, Jan Garbarek, George Garzone, Charles Gayle, Jon Irabagon, Dave Liebman, Charles Lloyd, Joe Lovano, Tony Malaby, Branford Marsalis, Donny McCaslin, Joe McPhee, David Murray, Ted Nash, Larry Ochs, Evan Parker, Ivo Perelman, Houston Person, Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Pharoah Sanders, Wayne Shorter, Chris Speed, Ken Vandermark, Tim Warfield, Ernie Watts.

Rising Star Tenor Saxophone: Kevin Sun (5), Josephine Davies (3), Binker Golding (2). Last time wrote in: Rodrigo Amado.

First pass: Geof Bradfield, Abraham Burton, Josephine Davies, Keefe Jackson, James Brandon Lewis, Tivon Pennicott, Grant Stewart.

Baritone Saxophone: Ken Vandermark (5), Mats Gustafsson (3), Brian Landrus (2).

First pass: Tim Berne, Hamiet Bluiett [RIP], James Carter, Ronnie Cuber, Claire Daly, Charles Evans, Vinny Golia, Mats Gustafsson, Howard Johnson, Brian Landrus, Dave Rempis, Scott Robinson, Gary Smulyan, John Surman, Gebhard Ullman, Ken Vandermark.

Rising Star Baritone Saxophone: Mikko Innanen (5), Alex Harding (3), Timo Lassy (2).

First pass: Charles Evans, Mikko Innanen, Fredrik Ljungkvist, Chad Makela, Adam Schroeder, Josh Sinton.

Clarinet: Oscar Noriega (5), Marty Ehrlich (3), Michael Moore (2).

First pass: Andy Biskin, Don Byron, Evan Christopher, Anat Cohen, Eddie Daniels, Marty Ehrlich, Ben Goldberg, David Krakauer, Jeff Lederer, Michael Moore, Oscar Noriega, Ken Peplowski, Michel Portal, Perry Robinson [RIP], Ned Rothenberg, Louis Sclavis, Chris Speed, Jason Stein, Gianluigi Trovesi, Ken Vandermark, Mort Weiss, Bob Wilber.

Rising Star Clarinet: Avram Fefer (5), Mike McGinnis (3) Chris Byars (2).

First pass: Joachim Badenhorst, Avram Fefer, Darryl Harper, François Houle, Rudi Mahall, Aram Shelton.

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

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

Rising Star Flute: Shabaka Hutchings (5).

First pass:

Piano: Matthew Shipp (5), Satoko Fujii (3) Myra Melford (2).

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

Rising Star Piano: Nik Bärtsch (5), Matt Mitchell (3), Matt Piet (2).

First pass: Ehud Asherie, Nik Bartsch, George Colligan, Benoit Delbecq, Danny Fox, Benito Gonzalez, Tord Gustavsen, Art Hirahara, Russ Lossing, Matt Mitchell, Aaron Parks, Matt Piet, Peter Zak.

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

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

Rising Star Electronic Keyboard: Russ Lossing (5), Elliot Galvin (3).

First pass: Zaccai Curtis, Kit Downes, Russ Lossing.

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

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

Rising Star Organ: Alexander Hawkins (5), Greg Lewis (3), Vince Seneri (2).

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

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

First pass: Rez Abbasi, Howard Alden, Peter Bernstein, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, Bill Frisell, Mary Halvorson, Vic Juris, Steve Khan, Romero Lubambo, Russell Malone, John McLaughlin, Joe Morris, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Bucky Pizzarelli, Marc Ribot, John Scofield, Dave Stryker, James Blood Ulmer.

Rising Star Guitar: Eric Hofbauer (5), Jon Lundblom (3), Scott DuBois (2). Previous write-in votes for Gordon Grdina, Samo Salamon.

First pass: Will Bernard, Raoul Bjorkenheim, Paul Bollenback, Scott DuBois, Eric Hofbauer, Jon Lundbom, Pete McCann, Michael Musillami, Anders Nilsson, Miles Okazaki, Brandon Seabrook, Jacob Young.

Bass: William Parker (5), Reggie Workman (3), John Hébert (2).

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

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

First pass: Joshua Abrams, Pablo Aslan, Harrison Bankhead, Michael Bates, Carlos Bica, Matt Brewer, John Edwards, Moppa Elliott, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Devin Hoff, Adam Lane, Joelle Leandre, Lisa Mezzacappa, Matt Penman, Katie Thiroux, Per Zanussi.

Electric Bass: Steve Swallow (5), Jamaaladeen Tacuma (3), Stomu Takeishi (2).

First pass: Avishai Cohen, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, Matthew Garrison, James Genus, Drew Gress, Charnett Moffett, Linda May Han Oh, John Patitucci, Steve Swallow, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Stomu Takeishi. 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), Nate McBride (3), Tommy Babin (2).

First pass: Tommy Babin, Nate McBride, Chris Morrissey.

Violin: Jason Kao Hwang (5), Jenny Scheinman (3), Carlos Zingaro (2).

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

Rising Star Violin: Szilard Mezei (5), Jesse Zubot (3), Macie Stewart (2).

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

Drums: Andrew Cyrille (5), Barry Altschul (3), Gerald Cleaver (2). Previous write-in: Gerry Hemingway.

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

Rising Star Drums: Paal Nilssen-Love (5), Tim Daisy (3), Tomas Fujiwara (2).

First pass: Tim Daisy, Tomas Fujiwara, Devin Gray, Dave King, Makaya McCraven, Allison Miller, Paal Nilssen-Love, Kassa Overall, Stefan Pasborg, Mike Reed, Frank Rosaly, Ches Smith, Satoshi Takeishi, Chad Taylor, Dan Weiss.

Percussion: Han Bennink (5), Hamid Drake (3), Marilyn Mazur (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, Warren Smith, Okay Temiz.

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

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

Rising Star Vibes: Mike Dillon (5), Yuhan Su (3) Michael Waldrop (2).

First pass: Mike Dillon, Yuhan Su.

Miscellaneous Instrument: Tomeka Reid (cello) (5), Gary Versace (accordion) (3), Howard Johnson (tuba) (2).

First pass: Rabih Abou Khalil (oud), 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), Tomeka Reid (cello), 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), Andrea Parkins (accordion) (3) Brandon Seabrook (banjo) (2).

First pass: Kyle Bruckmann (oboe), Theon Cross (tuba), Ben Goldberg (contra alto clarinet), Brian Landrus (bass 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), Katherine Young (bassoon).

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

First pass: Dee Alexander, Patricia Barber, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jay Clayton, Leena Conquest, Lorraine Feather, 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: Nellie McKay (5), Nicki Parrott (3), Lisa Sokolov (2).

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

Male Vocalist: Freddy Cole (5), James Blood Ulmer (3), Giacomo Gates (2). Former write-in vote: Ed Reed.

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

Rising Star Male Vocalist: Jamie Davis (5).

First pass: Jamie Davis, -Pete McGuinness, -Frank Senior.

Composer: Carla Bley (5), Moppa Elliott (3), John Hollenbeck (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: Moppa Elliott (5), Ingrid Laubrock (3), Taylor Ho Bynum (2).

First pass: Moppa Elliott, Ethan Iverson, Ingrid Laubrock, -Allison Miller.

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: Jonathan Finlayson (5), Allison Miller (3), Makaya McCraven (2).

First pass: none (but see above).

Record Label: No Business (5), Relative Pitch (3), Intakt (2).

First pass: Arbors, AUM Fidelity, Clean Feed, Cuneiform, Delmark, ECM, Enja, Firehouse 12, Fresh Sound New Talent, Gearbox Records, Greenleaf Music, HatHut, HighNote, Intakt, Leo, NoBusiness, Origin, Pi, Relative Pitch, RogueArt, Savant, Smoke Sessions, SteepleChase, Sunnyside, TUM, Tzadik.

Producer: John Zorn (5), Don Was (3), Dave Holland (2).

First pass: Matt Baltisaris, Mark Free, Gil Goldstein, Bill Laswell, Don Was, Nils Winther, John Zorn.

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

First pass: Taylor Ho Bynum, John Corbett, Pedro Costa, Liberty Ellman, Seth Rosner/Yulun Wang, Spike Wilner.

Blues Artist or Group: Maria Muldaur (5), Sue Foley (3), Otis Taylor (2).

First pass: Marcia Ball, Lurrie Bell, Eric Bibb, Elvin Bishop, Guy Davis, Sue Foley, Billy F. Gibbons, Buddy Guy, Bettye LaVette, Taj Mahal, Duke Robillard, Bobby Rush, Otis Taylor, James Blood Ulmer. I've written Muldaur in several times.

Blues Album (April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021):

  • Maria Muldaur/Tuba Skinny, Let's Get Happy Together (Stony Plain) (5)

Admittedly, I've only heard the promo single from the album, but none of the other nominated albums came close to A-, and I've been writing Muldaur in for Blues Artist for several years now.

Beyond Artist of Group: Run the Jewels (5), Sault (3), Billie Eilish (2).

First pass: Fiona Apple, Elizabeth Cook, Lana Del Rey, Bob Dylan, Bettye LaVette, Bettye LaVette, Nellie McKay, Megan Thee Stallion, Willie Nelson, Noname, Run the Jewels, Sault, Taylor Swift, Jessie Ware, Neil Young.

Beyond Album (April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021):

  • Run the Jewels: RTJ4 (Jewel Runners/RBC/BMG) (5)
  • Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia (Warner) (3)
  • Lucinda Williams: Good Souls Better Angels (Highway 20) (2)

Other A-list albums I recognized on the ballot:

  • Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Epic)
  • Jessie Ware: What's Your Pleasure? (Interscope)
  • Megan Thee Stallion: Good News (300 Entertainment)
  • Bob Dylan: Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia)
  • Elizabeth Cook: Aftermath (Agent Love)
  • Ashley McBryde: Never Will (Warner Nashville)

Post-Poll Comments

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