DownBeat Critics Poll: 2023

I voted on May 3, 2022. 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.

My usual practice is to first scan through the nominees, and jot down any that strike me as likely. Sometimes I'll also add some names that I felt should have been nominated. 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 often 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 2023 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 rather 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).

Veterans Committee Hall of Fame: Last year was the first time I had been invited to vote in this category, but then they dropped it, announcing no winners or votes in their results issue. This year it has been dropped from the ballot (or at least mine).

From 2022: Idea is to pick up to ten of 25 nominees. Winners must be named on 75% of the ballots. Eligible: born 100+ years ago and/or died 50+ years ago. Winners in 2021: Yusef Lateef (1920-2013) and Booker Little (1938-61).

I voted for: Chu Berry, Buck Clayton, Bud Freeman, Paul Gonsalves, Professor Longhair, Machito, Shelly Manne, Cole Porter, Jimmy Rushing, Stuff Smith.

That left these candidates I didn't vote for: Mario Bauza, Bunny Berigan, Buddy Bolden, Big Sid Catlett, Dorothy Donegan, Tommy Dorsey, Ira Gershwin, Lightnin' Hopkins, Harry James, Eddie Jefferson, Jay McShann, Red Norvo, Les Paul, T-Bone Walker, Cootie Williams.

I hadn't understood the 50-year rule before, but that explains why the Veterans Committee has been selecting so many 1940-50s musicians who died young: Jimmy Blanton (23), Paul Chambers (33), Tadd Dameron (48), Scott LaFaro (25), Booker Little (23), Herbie Nichols (44), Oscar Pettiford (37), Dinah Washington (39). Several others who died young were already eligible under the 100-year rule: Robert Johnson (27), Jimmie Lunceford (45), Chick Webb (34).

Some other names that should be considered seriously:

  • Henry "Red" Allen (1908-67)
  • Don Byas (1912-72)
  • Cozy Cole (1909-81)
  • Vic Dickenson (1906-84)
  • Harry "Sweets" Edison (1915-99)
  • Slim Gaillard (1916-90)
  • Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008)
  • Illinois Jacquet (1922-2004)
  • Budd Johnson (1910-84)
  • Louis Jordan (1908-75)
  • Louis Prima (1911-78)
  • Don Redman (1900-64)
  • George Russell (1923-2009)
  • Luis Russell (1902-63)

Hall of Fame: Excludes previous winners, including 2022 winners: Geri Allen, Kenny Barron). My votes: Anthony Braxton (5), Abdullah Ibrahim (3), Henry Threadgill (2).

First pass: I'll copy the whole ballot, then sort them into five tiers:

  1. Voted for: Anthony Braxton, Abdullah Ibrahim, Henry Threadgill.
  2. Seriously considered: Paul Bley, Jaki Byard, Jack DeJohnette, Bill Frisell, Jan Garbarek, Grant Green, Dave Holland, Illinois Jacquet, Charles Lloyd, Tito Puente, Pharoah Sanders, Chucho Valdes, Kenny Wheeler, John Zorn.
  3. Not now: Kenny Burrell, Kenny Garrett, Buddy Guy, Albert "Tootie" Heath, Fred Hersch, Billy Higgins, Shirley Horn, Bobby Hutcherson, Howard Johnson, Dr. John, Joe Lovano, John McLaughlin, Oliver Nelson, Eddie Palmieri, Dianne Reeves, Gunther Schuller, John Scofield, Steve Turre.
  4. Not really: Terence Blanchard, Jane Ira Bloom, Bob Brookmeyer, Billy Cobham, Alice Coltrane, Joey DeFrancesco, Melba Liston, Dave Liebman, Maria Schneider, Tyshawn Sorey, Cassandra Wilson.
  5. Not ever: Lenny Breau, Randy Brecker, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bela Fleck, Ramsey Lewis, Ellis Marsalis, Dr. Lonnie Smith.

Last year I complained about some names I had voted for in the past, but had been dropped from the ballot: George Russell, Roswell Rudd. Also I singled out the omission of Sheila Jordan. It wouldn't be hard to add another dozen names (beyond the Veterans names I listed), like: Billy Bang, Art Farmer, Tommy Flanagan, Al Haig, Misha Mengelberg, Houston Person, Don Pullen, Sam Rivers, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Horace Tapscott, Mal Waldron, David S. Ware. Actually, one could add several dozen more.

While the Veterans Committee has helped a bit (although somewhat peculiarly, with a rule that favors early deaths over long careers), the DBHOF, limited to two picks per year (one critics, one readers) has been losing ground steadily. I've recommended several times that they double this, picking one living and one deceased artist each round.

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. Wadada Leo Smith (5), James Brandon Lewis (3), Matthew Shipp (2).

First pass (- no longer on ballot, -- maybe never on ballot): Tim Berne, Steven Bernstein, -Anthony Braxton, Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, --Satoko Fujii, Mary Halvorson, Shabaka Hutchings, *James Brandon Lewis, Dave Liebman, -Myra Melford, William Parker *Matthew Shipp, *Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, --Ken Vandermark, Miguel Zenon, -John Zorn.

Rising Star -- Jazz Artist: James Brandon Lewis (5), Kevin Sun (3), Immanuel Wilkins (2). Since they were on the ballot, I figured I might as well. Ballot, of course, misses a lot of worthy people.

First pass: Lakecia Benjamin, Moses Boyd, Theon Cross, Josephine Davies, Peter Evans, *James Brandon Lewis, Makaya McCraven, Hedvig Mollestad, Luke Stewart, *Kevin Sun, *Immanuel Wilkins, Brandee Younger.

Jazz Album of the Year (April 1, 2022-March 31, 2023):

  • Tyshawn Sorey Trio + 1, The Off-Off Broadway Guide To Synergism (Pi) (5)
  • Art Ensemble Of Chicago, The Sixth Decade (Rogueart '23) (3)
  • Wadada Leo Smith, The Emerald Duets (TUM) (2)

Other A-list albums on ballot:

  • David Murray/Brad Jones/Hamid Drake, Seriana Promethea (Intakt)
  • Lakecia Benjamin, Phoenix (Whirlwind '23)
  • Thumbscrew, Multicolored Midnight (Cuneiform)
  • Sun Ra Arkestra, Living Sky (Omni Sound)
  • Miguel Zenón, Musica De Las Américas (Miel)
  • Kirk Knuffke Trio, Gravity Without Airs (Tao Forms)
  • Moor Mother, Jazz Codes (Anti-)
  • Anthony Branker & Imagine, What Place Can Be For Us? (Origin)

Ballot breakdown by my grades: A: 1; A-: 10; B+(***): 18; B+(**): 28; B+(*): 17; B: 5; B-: 2; unheard: 12. I managed to hear most of these (81/93, or 87.0%).

Historical Album (April 1, 2022-March 31, 2023):

  • Bill Evans, Morning Glory (Resonance) (5)
  • Ahmad Jamal, Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse (Jazz Detective) (3)
  • Charle Mingus, The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott's (Resonance) (2)

Other A-list records nominated:

  • none.

Ballot breakdown by my grades (extra is grades for previous editions): A-: 2+2; B+(***): 3; B+(**): 3; B+(*): 2; B: 0+1; B-: 0+1; unheard: 19. I didn't hear very much here (10/33, or 30.3%)

Both of these lists are a small subset of my Best Jazz of 2022 lists (81 new albums, 10 reissues/archival albums, not counting 4 reissues I had graded previous releases of).

Jazz Group: Sons of Kemet (5), Mostly Other People Do the Killing (3), Thumbscrew (2).

First pass: Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Mostly Other People Do the Killing, -Rempis Percussion Quartet, Shabaka and the Ancestors, Sons of Kemet, Thumbscrew.

Rising Star Jazz Group: Irreversible Entanglements (5), Binker and Moses (3), ICP Septet (2). Write-in from 2022: Ill Considered.

First pass: *Binker And Moses, GoGo Penguin, *ICP Septet, *Irreversible Entanglements, The Comet Is Coming.

Large Ensemble: Satoko Fujii Orchestra (5), Fire! Orchestra (5), Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra (2).

First pass: *Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra, Anthony Brown's Asian-American Jazz Orchestra, Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber, Exploding Star Orchestra, *Fire! Orchestra, *Satoko Fujii Orchestra, ICP Orchestra, Sun Ra Arkestra.

Rising Star Large Ensemble: Vince Giordano's Nighthawks (5), Ghost Train Orchestra (3), Cecilia Coleman Big Band (2).

First pass: There must be some better choices somewhere.

Trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith (5), Kirk Knuffke (3), Taylor Ho Bynum (2).

First pass: Steven Bernstein, *Taylor Ho Bynum, Dave Douglas, Jonathan Finlayson, *Kirk Knuffke, Brian Lynch, Enrico Rava, *Wadada Leo Smith, -David Weiss, Nate Wooley.

Rising Star Trumpet: Jonathan Finlayson (5), Lina Allemano (3), Steph Richards (2),

First pass: *Lina Allemano, Peter Evans, *Jonathan Finlayson, Jason Palmer, *Steph Richards.

Trombone: Steve Swell (5), Joe Fiedler (3), Ray Anderson (2).

First pass: Ray Anderson, Dan Barrett, Jeb Bishop, Samuel Blaser, Luis Bonilla, Joe Fiedler, Craig Harris, Curtis Fowlkes, George Lewis, Steve Swell, Steve Turre, Wolter Wierbos.

Rising Star Trombone: Mats Aleklint (5), JC Sanford (3), Natalie Cressman (2).

First pass: Mats Aleklint, -Michael Dessen, -Alan Ferber, JC Sanford. Not many people I recognize here.

Soprano Saxophone: Jane Ira Bloom (5), Evan Parker (3), Dave Liebman (2).

First pass: Jane Ira Bloom, Jan Garbarek, Jimmy Greene, Ingrid Laubrock, Dave Liebman, Roscoe Mitchell, Sam Newsome, Evan Parker, Marcus Strickland, Steve Wilson. Most nominees are tenor saxophonists who play soprano on the side.

Rising Star Soprano Saxophone: Aurora Nealand (5), Hailey Niswanger (3), Isaiah Collier (2).

First pass: Isaiah Collier, Jasmine Lovell-Smith, Steve Lugerner, Aurora Nealand, Jason Robinson.

Alto Saxophone: Oliver Lake (5) Steve Lehman (3), Miguel Zenon (2). Last year I voted for Dave Rempis (now off ballot), and wrote in François Carrier and Allen Lowe (still not on ballot). On the other hand, there are a dozen worthy candidates on ballot.

First pass: Marshall Allen, Gary Bartz, Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Steve Coleman, Donald Harrison, Benjamin Herman, Vincent Herring, Jon Irabagon, Oliver Lake, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Charles McPherson, Ted Nash, -Dave Rempis, Jim Snidero, Henry Threadgill, Miguel Zenón, John Zorn.

Rising Star Alto Saxophone: Dave Rempis (5), Silke Eberhard (3). Nick Mazzarella (2).

First pass: Andrew D'Angelo, Mike DiRubbo, Silke Eberhard, Nick Mazzarella, Angelika Niescier, Dave Rempis, Greg Ward.

Tenor Saxophone: James Brandon Lewis (5), Houston Person (3), Shabaka Hutchings (2). I wrote in Rich Halley last year. I've written in Rodrigo Amado in the past. And I've voted for David Murray and Ken Vandermark, who are only the most obvious omissions.

First pass: Eric Alexander, JD Allen, Jerry Bergonzi, Peter Brötzmann, James Carter, Joel Frahm, George Garzone, Shabaka Hutchings, Jon Irabagon, James Brandon Lewis, Dave Liebman, Charles Lloyd, Joe Lovano, Tony Malaby, -Joe McPhee, -David Murray, -Larry Ochs, Evan Parker, Ivo Perelman, Houston Person, Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, -Dave Rempis, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, -Ken Vandermark.

Rising Star Tenor Saxophone: Kevin Sun (5), Binker Golding (3). Zoh Amba (3). I wrote in Eddie Bayard last year.

First pass: Zoh Amba, Abraham Burton, Geof Bradfield, Josephine Davies, Binker Golding, Keefe Jackson, Tivon Pennicott, Chris Speed, Grant Stewart, Kevin Sun.

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

First pass: Tim Berne, James Carter, Ronnie Cuber, Claire Daly, Vinny Golia, Mats Gustafsson, Alex Harding, Brian Landrus, Dave Rempis, Scott Robinson, Josh Sinton, Gary Smulyan, John Surman, -Gebhard Ullman, Ken Vandermark.

Rising Star Baritone Saxophone: Timo Lassy (5), Charles Evans (3), Adam Schroeder (2).

First pass: Charles Evans, -Alex Harding, -Mikko Innanen, Timo Lassy, Adam Schroeder.

Clarinet: Ken Peplowski (5), Michel Portal (3), Michael Moore (2).

First pass: -Andy Biskin, Don Byron, Evan Christopher, Anat Cohen, Marty Ehrlich, Ben Goldberg, Francois Houle, David Krakauer, Jeff Lederer, Rudi Mahall, Michael Moore, Oscar Noriega, Ken Peplowski, Michel Portal, Ned Rothenberg, Louis Sclavis, Chris Speed, -Jason Stein, Gianluigi Trovesi, Ken Vandermark.

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

First pass: Joachim Badenhorst, Chris Byars, Avram Fefer, Mike McGinnis, Lucas Pino, Aram Shelton.

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

First pass: Same as last time.

Rising Star Flute: Nubya Garcia (5), Zoh Amba (3), Itai Kriss (2).

First pass: None.

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

First pass: Kenny Barron, George Cables, -Uri Caine, Bill Charlap, -Marc Copland, Marilyn Crispell, Kris Davis, Satoko Fujii, -Hal Galper, Fred Hersch, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ethan Iverson, Vijay Iyer, -Joachim Kuhn, Brad Mehldau, Myra Melford, Matt Mitchell, Jason Moran, Renee Rosnes, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, -Alexander von Schlippenbach, Matthew Shipp, Craig Taborn, Davie Virelles, Denny Zeitlin.

Rising Star Piano: Marta Sanchez (5), Aaron Parks (3), John Escreet (2). Last year I wrote in Alexander Hawkins and Kaja Draksler, both still off ballot.

First pass: Ehud Asherie, John Escreet, Margherita Fava, Leo Genovese, Aaron Parks, -Matt Piet, Jacob Sacks, *Marta Sanchez. For some reason they purged a lot of names here, then added a bunch I never found all that interesting.

Electronic Keyboard: Jamie Saft (5), Leo Genovese (3), Uri Caine (2).

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

Rising Star Electronic Keyboard: Russ Lossing (5), Elliot Galvin (3), Brian Charette (2).

First pass:

Organ: Mike LeDonne (5), Gary Versace (3), Brian Charette (2).

First pass: 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: Alexander Hawkins, Greg Lewis, Vince Seneri.

Guitar: Gordon Grdina (5), Marc Ribot (3), Mary Halvorson (2).

First pass: Rez Abbasi, Howard Alden, Peter Bernstein, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, Bill Frisell, Gordon Grdina, Mary Halvorson, John McLaughlin, Joe Morris, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Jeff Parker, Marc Ribot, John Scofield, Dave Stryker, -James Blood Ulmer.

Rising Star Guitar: Gordon Grdina (5), Eric Hofbauer (3), Pete McCann (2). Voted for Jon Lundblom in 2022, no longer on ballot.

First pass: Raoul Bjorkenheim, -Scott DuBois, *Gordon Grdina, *Eric Hofbauer, -Jon Lundbom, *Pete McCann, Hedvig Mollestad (listed second time as Thomassen), Michael Musillami, Brandon Seabrook.

Bass: William Parker (5), Peter Washington (3), John Hébert (2).

First pass: Ben Allison, Arild Andersen, -Michael Bisio, Ron Carter, Avishai 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, Thomas Morgan, William Parker, Eric Revis, -Harvie S, Peter Washington, Reggie Workman.

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

First pass: Joshua Abrams, John Edwards, Moppa Elliott, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, -Adam Lane, Matt Penman, Katie Thiroux.

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

First pass: Avishai Cohen, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, Matthew Garrison, 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, Jenny Scheinman, Aaron Weinstein, Carlos Zingaro.

Rising Star Violin: Szilard Mezei (5), Jesse Zubot (3), Ola Kvernberg (2). Not much here.

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

Drums: Jim Black (5), Tyshawn Sorey (3).

Andrew Cyrille (2),

First pass: -Barry Altschul, Joey Baron, Han Bennink, Jim Black, Gerald Cleaver, Andrew Cyrille, Jack DeJohnette, Hamid Drake, -Joe Farnsworth, Tomas Fujiwara, Billy Hart, -Gerry Hemingway, -John Hollenbeck, Dave King, -Paul Lovens, Lewis Nash, Mike Reed, Rudy Royston, Ches Smith, Tyshawn Sorey, Bill Stewart, Nasheet Waits, Kenny Washington, Matt Wilson.

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

First pass: Moses Boyd, Tim Daisy, Devin Gray, Paal Nilssen-Love, Dafnis Prieto, Ches Smith, 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, Patricia Brennan, 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: Kjell Nordeson (5), Mike Dillon (3), Yuhan Su (2)

First pass:

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

First pass: Rabih Abou Khalil (oud), Edmar Castaneda (Colombian harp), Theon Cross (tuba), Joseph Daley (tuba), Erik Friedlander (cello), Richard Galliano (accordion), Gordon Grdina (oud), Guy Klucevsek (accordion), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Grégoire Maret (harmonica), Myra Melford (harmonium), David Murray (bass clarinet), Tomeka Reid (cello), Marcus Rojas (tuba), Gebhard Ullmann (bass clarinet), Gary Versace (accordion), Brandee Younger (harp).

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

First pass: Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), 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), Sheila Jordan (3), Fay Victor (2).

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

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

First pass: Fay Claassen, Lady Blackbird, Nellie McKay, Nicki Parrott, Lisa Sokolov, Fay Victor, Andrea Wolper.

Male Vocalist: John Pizzarelli (5), James Blood Ulmer (3), Giacomo Gates (2). Former write-in vote: Ed Reed. Tough category for me, as I rather intensely dislike almost all of the leading candidates (Kurt Elling, José James, Gregory Porter, Jamie Cullum) while I find the arthouse faves too precious (Theo Bleckmann, Phil Minton).

First pass: Tony Bennett, Theo Bleckmann, Giacomo Gates, John Pizzarelli, -Ed Reed, Dwight Trible, James Blood Ulmer, Kenny Washington, Mark Winkler.

Rising Star Male Vocalist: Jamie Davis (5).

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

2022 Note: fatigue sitting in, just want to get this over. (Happens every year at this time.)

Composer: Carla Bley (5), Moppa Elliott (3), John Zorn (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), Intakt (3), Pi (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), Swamp Dogg (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, 2022 to March 31, 2023):

  • Buddy Guy, Blues Don't Lie (RCA/Silvertone) (5)
  • Fantastic Negrito, White Jesus Black Problems (Storefront) (3)

Other A-list albums I recognized on the ballot:

  • None.

Ballot breakdown by my grades: B+(***): 2; B+(**): 4; B: 1; unheard: 26. I do a poor job of tracking these (7/33, or 21.2%).

Beyond Artist of Group: Megan Thee Stallion (5), Dua Lipa (3), Beyoncé (2).

First pass: Beyoncé, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Rhiannon Giddens, Kendrick Lamar, Miranda Lambert, Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, -Taylor Swift, Neil Young.

Beyond Album (April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023):

  • Megan Thee Stallion, Traumazine (Certified) (5)
  • Rosalía, Motomami (Columbia) (3)
  • Beyoncé, Renaissance (Columbia) (2)

Other A-list albums I recognized on the ballot:

  • Miranda Lambert, Palomino (Vanner) [A-]
  • Pusha T, It's Almost Dry (Getting Out Our Dreams/Def Jam) [A-]
  • Sudan Archives, Natural Brown Prom Queen (Stone's Throw) [A-]
  • Robert Forster, The Candle And The Flame (Tapete '23) [A-]
  • Yo La Tengo, This Stupid World (Matador) [A-]

Ballot breakdown by my grades: A-: 8; B+(***): 8; B+(**): 5; B+(*): 2; B: 6; unheard: 8. These are all over the place (29/37, or 78.3%).

Post-Poll Comments

Downbeat Readers Poll

Voted on August 31, 2023. Votes in bold, listed along with other most worthy candidates. One ground rule was that I only picked choices from those offered on the ballot, so no write ins. No chance they would take a write-in as a suggestion of someone to add to the ballot next year. I did collect the nominee lists for the various album categories, so they guide me to unheard albums of note.

Hall of Fame: Anthony Braxton, Jack DeJohnette, Abdullah Ibrahim, Pharoah Sanders, Henry Threadgill.

Jazz Artist: Mary Halvorson, James Brandon Lewis, Matthew Shipp, Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill.

Jazz Group: Irreversible Entanglements, Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Thumbscrew. No Sons of Kemet? I generally don't like picking groups named for leader. They seem more like extensions than groups.

Large Ensemble: Fire! Orchestra, Sun Ra Arkestra.

Jazz Album of the Year (Released June 1, 2022 to May 31, 2023): The following nominees were A/A- (Sorey got the vote):

  • Tyshawn Sorey Trio + 1, The Off-Off Broadway Guide To Synergism (Pi)
  • Art Ensemble Of Chicago, The Sixth Decade (Rogueart)
  • Lakecia Benjamin, Phoenix (Whirlwind)
  • Anthony Branker & Imagine, What Place Can Be For Us? (Origin)
  • Kirk Knuffke Trio, Gravity Without Airs (Tao Forms)
  • James Brandon Lewis, Eye of I (Anti-)
  • Moor Mother, Jazz Codes (Anti-)
  • Wadada Leo Smith, The Emerald Duets (TUM)
  • Sun Ra Arkestra, Living Sky (Omni Sound)
  • Henry Threadgill, The Other One (Pi)
  • Miguel Zenón, Musica De Las Américas (Miel)

Grade breakdown: A: 1; A-: 10; B+(***): 16; B+(**): 26; B+(*): 13; B: 2; B-: 1; U: 14 (83.1% heard).

Historical Album of the Year (Released June 1, 2022 to May 31, 2003):

  • Ahmad Jamal, Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse (Jazz Detective)

I treated the Jamal sets as two separate 2-CD sets, grading them B+(***) and A-. No more A/A- records below, aside from several that I had graded A- based on previous releases: Hampton Hawes, Four; Andrew Hill, Dance With Death; Charles Mingus, Presents Charles Mingus; Max Roach, We Insist!; Sonny Rollins, Go West!. There were 36 nominees, 8 I had graded previous versions of, so that leaves 26. My rated count is 50% (13/26), the breakdown (aside from Jamal): B+(***): 5, B+(**): 6, B+(*): 2.

Trumpet: Steven Bernstein, Taylor Ho Bynum, Kirk Knuffke, Wadada Leo Smith.

Trombone: Ray Anderson, Joe Fiedler, Steve Swell.

Soprano Saxophone: Dave Liebman, Evan Parker.

Alto Saxophone: Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Oliver Lake, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Miguel Zenón.

Tenor Saxophone: James Brandon Lewis, Evan Parker, Houston Person.

Baritone Saxophone: Mats Gustafsson, Dave Rempis, Scott Robinson, Josh Sinton.

Clarinet: Marty Ehrlich, Rudi Mahall, Michael Moore, Ken Peplowski.

Flute: Juhani Aaltonen, Nicole Mitchell, Henry Threadgill.

Piano: Marilyn Crispell, Kris Davis, Satoko Fujii, Fred Hersch, Myra Melford, Matthew Shipp, Craig Taborn.

Keyboards: Matt Mitchell, Matthew Shipp.

Organ: Mike LeDonne, Amira Claudine Myers.

Guitar: Bill Frisell, Gordon Grdina, Mary Halvorson, Jeff Parker, Marc Ribot.

Bass: Arild Andersen, Mark Dresser, Michael Formanek, Barry Guy, John Hébert, William Parker, Peter Washington, Reggie Workman.

Electric Bass: Stomu Takeishi.

Violin: Jason Kao Hwang, Jenny Scheinman.

Drums: Han Bennink, Gerald Cleaver, Andrew Cyrille Jack DeJohnette, Hamid Drake, Lewis Nash, Paal Nilssen-Love, Tyshawn Sorey, Chad Taylor, Matt Wilson. No Gerry Hemingway?

Percussion: Han Bennink, Hamid Drake, Adam Rudolph, Chad Taylor.

Vibraphone: Jason Adasiewicz, Warren Smith.

Miscellaneous Instrument: Theon Cross (tuba), David Murray (bass clarinet), Tomeka Reid (cello), Gary Versace (accordion).

Female Vocalist: Sheila Jordan, Catherine Russell, Fay Victor.

Male Vocalist: John Pizzarelli.

Composer: Wadada Leo Smith, Tyshawn Sorey, Henry Threadgill.

Arranger: Steven Bernstein.

Record Label: Pi Recordings.

Producer: Bill Laswell.

Blues Artist: Taj Mahal, Swamp Dog.

Blues Album: The following nominees were A- (bold got the vote):

  • Angela Strehli, Ace Of Blues (Antone's)
  • Fenton Robinson, Somebody Loan Me A Dime (1974, Alligator)
  • Mud Morganfield, Portrait (Delmark)
  • Taj Mahal, Savoy (Stony Plain)

Rated albums 20/37 (54.1%). This is much higher than usual, as I used the Critics Poll nominees (21.2% rated) as a checklist.

Beyond Artist: Beyoncé, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Miranda Lambert, Bettye LaVette, Megan Thee Stallion, Neil Young.

Beyond Album: The following nominees were A- (bold got the vote):

  • Megan Thee Stallion, Traumazine (Certified)
  • Robert Forster, The Candle And The Flame (Tapete)
  • Beyoncé, Renaissance (Columbia)
  • Sudan Archives, Natural Brown Prom Queen (Stone's Throw)
  • Yo La Tengo, This Stupid World (Matador)

Rated albums 22/33 (66.7%). The category is bullshit, of course, at least to the extent that they mean something more specific than the "non-jazz" I divide my EOY lists into.