Pianist Vijay Iyer, singer-songwriter Cécile McLorin Salvant, flutist Nicole Mitchell, trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, orchestra leader Maria Schneider and hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar are among the talented performers who topped multiple categories in the 66th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll.
Iyer topped the Jazz Artist category (a feat he also accomplished in 2012 and 2015), and his namesake sextet—which released the 2017 album Far From Over (ECM)—topped the Jazz Group category. Produced by Manfred Eicher, the album features Iyer (piano, Fender Rhodes), Graham Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn, electronics), Steve Lehman (alto saxophone), Mark Shim (tenor saxophone), Stephan Crump (double bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums).
Salvant topped the Female Vocalist category, and her ambitious double album, Dreams And Daggers (Mack Avenue), was voted Jazz Album of the Year.
Mitchell topped the Flute category, and her band the Black Earth Ensemble, which has had a rotating, fluid lineup for decades, won the category Rising Star–Jazz Group. One of Mitchell’s longtime collaborators, cellist Tomeka Reid, won the category Rising Star–Miscellaneous Instrument.
Composer, trumpeter, santur player and vocalist Amir ElSaffar topped two categories: Rising Star–Trumpet and Rising Star–Arranger. ElSaffar steadily has built a following, thanks to acclaimed albums such as Not Two (New Amsterdam), Crisis (Pi) and Alchemy (Pi).
Schneider topped the Arranger category, and the Maria Schneider Orchestra won the Big Band Category.
Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar—whose album Damn. (Interscope/Top Dawg Entertainment) has sold a million copies and earned him a Pulitzer Prize—topped two categories in the DownBeat Critics Poll. He won the Beyond Artist or Group category, and Damn. won for Beyond Album.
There was a tie in the category Rising Star–Jazz Artist, so pianist Kris Davis and guitarist Julian Lage will share the honor as co-winners.
The poll also resulted in two inductions into the DownBeat Hall of Fame. Joining the elite club are 89-year-old composer and saxophonist Benny Golson, and pianist and radio personality Marian McPartland (1918–2013), who was voted in via the DownBeat Veterans Committee.
Among the Golson compositions that have become standards are “Whisper Not,” “Killer Joe,” “I Remember Clifford” and “Along Came Betty.”
For decades, McPartland was a familiar, friendly voice heard on the NPR radio program Marian McPartlad’s Piano Jazz, which featured interviews and collaborations with guest musicians.
“DownBeat is proud to welcome Benny Golson and the late Marian McPartland into the Hall of Fame,” said Bobby Reed, DownBeat editor. “Golson and McPartland are both titans whose contributions to jazz are immeasurable. These two artists are linked by the fact that they both appeared in Art Kane’s iconic 1958 photograph A Great Day In Harlem. Two other things they have in common are a long career that has spread the popularity of jazz around the globe, and a body of work that will be revered by jazz fans for decades to come.”
Other winners in the 66th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll include Ambrose Akinmusire (Trumpet), Mary Halvorson (Guitar), Steve Swallow (Electric Bass), Kurt Elling (Male Vocalist), Jacob Garchik (Rising Star–Trombone), Caroline Davis (Rising Star–Alto Saxophone), Ingrid Laubrock (Rising Star–Tenor Saxophone) and Johnathan Blake (Rising Star–Drums).
The complete list of winners is below.
66th ANNUAL DOWNBEAT CRITICS POLL WINNERS
Jazz Artist: Vijay Iyer
Jazz Album: Cécile McLorin Salvant, Dreams And Daggers (Mack Avenue)
Jazz Group: Vijay Iyer Sextet
Big Band: Maria Schneider Orchestra
Trumpet: Ambrose Akinmusire
Trombone: Wycliffe Gordon
Soprano Saxophone: Jane Ira Bloom
Alto Saxophone: Rudresh Mahanthappa
Tenor Saxophone: Charles Lloyd
Baritone Saxophone: Gary Smulyan
Clarinet: Anat Cohen
Piano: Geri Allen (1957–2017)
Keyboard: Robert Glasper
Organ: Dr. Lonnie Smith
Guitar: Mary Halvorson
Bass: Christian McBride
Electric Bass: Steve Swallow
Violin: Regina Carter
Drums: Jack DeJohnette
Percussion: Hamid Drake
Vibraphone: Stefon Harris
Miscellaneous Instrument: Akua Dixon (cello)
Female Vocalist: Cécile McLorin Salvant
Male Vocalist: Kurt Elling
Arranger: Maria Schneider
Record Label: ECM
Producer: Manfred Eicher
Blues Artist or Group: Bettye LaVette
Blues Album: Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’, TajMo (Concord)
Beyond Artist or Group: Kendrick Lamar
Beyond Album: Kendrick Lamar, Damn. (Interscope/Top Dawg Entertainment)
Rising Star Categories
Rising Star–Jazz Group: Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble
Rising Star–Big Band: John Beasley’s MONK’estra
Rising Star–Trumpet: Amir ElSaffar
Rising Star–Trombone: Jacob Garchik
Rising Star–Soprano Saxophone: Jimmy Greene
Rising Star–Alto Saxophone: Caroline Davis
Rising Star–Tenor Saxophone: Ingrid Laubrock
Rising Star–Baritone Saxophone: Alex Harding
Rising Star–Clarinet: Matana Roberts
Rising Star–Flute: Rhonda Larson
Rising Star–Piano: Orrin Evans
Rising Star–Keyboard: Elio Villafranca
Rising Star–Organ: Roberta Piket
Rising Star–Guitar: Jakob Bro
Rising Star–Bass: Thomas Morgan
Rising Star–Electric Bass: Mimi Jones
Rising Star–Violin: Scott Tixier
Rising Star–Drums: Johnathan Blake
Rising Star–Percussion: Satoshi Takeishi
Rising Star–Vibraphone: Behn Gillece
Rising Star–Miscellaneous Instrument: Tomeka Reid (cello)
Rising Star–Female Vocalist: Jazzmeia Horn
Rising Star–Male Vocalist: Jamison Ross
Rising Star–Composer: Tyshawn Sorey
Rising Star–Arranger: Amir ElSaffar
Rising Star–Producer: Flying Lotus
The August issue of DownBeat has features on numerous winning artists as well the complete results for each category, listing more than 1,200 artists who received votes in the Critics Poll. To subscribe to DownBeat, visit the website. DB