DownBeat 86th Annual Readers Poll Winners


Roy Hargrove enters the DownBeat Hall of Fame.

(Photo: Mark Sheldon)

The readers have spoken in the 86th annual DownBeat Readers Poll, paying special tribute to recently departed legends of jazz. This year’s slate of winners is led by trumpeter Roy Hargrove, the readers’ choice for the DownBeat Hall of Fame, who passed away in 2018 at age 49.

“For me, Roy Hargrove was one of the most dedicated stewards of this music, the Black American tradition,” said trumpeter Theo Croker in a tribute to Hargrove penned by Bill Milkowski. “He could play everything on a high level without disregarding any other aspect of the music. He could come out on a rap song with Common and play bebop — the vocabulary of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie — with the swing of Louis Armstrong, the intensity of Freddie Hubbard and the soul of Lee Morgan. Roy was one of the greatest that’s ever lived. Musically, he showed us that all of these different aspects of Black American music belong together and how important it is as young Black artists to understand our language and vocabulary. He showed us by incorporating it into his music and putting it all on the same level, not one above the other, as so many other people like to do.”

Chick Corea, who passed away Feb. 19, was named the readers’ choice for Artist of the Year, as well as Pianist and Keyboardist of the Year. His trio with Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums, was named Group of the Year.

“In equal measure, he was super-disciplined and playfully childlike,” said saxophonist Tim Garland, a long-time musical associate of Corea’s, in a fond farewell to his mentor. “His discipline showed up in his respect for the efficiency of those around him. During those inevitable “rise and shine,” early morning, hotel-lobby-to-airport calls, he would set a great example of good-natured punctuality. His hotel room was always equipped with a full-sized keyboard for regular practice before, and often after, a concert. Leaving a venue, we’d sometimes have to wait as Chick would be up on stage again practicing Mozart while the cleaners swept their brooms around the stage.”

Album of the Year was Maria Schneider’s Data Lords, which also won the Critics Poll back in August.

“When the data lords refuse to make their algorithms transparent, use sensitive information about us and strong-arm any changes that could reverse that, are they displaying their liberal values?” she asked during an interview for the August issue.  “Me thinks not. So why do our liberal lawmakers protect them and even appoint big tech’s flying monkeys into our most important governmental positions, like our president is doing right now with antitrust?”

Schneider also won Composer and Arranger of the Year honors. Read the entire article from the August issue HERE.

In addition to those awards, the readers bestowed the Historical Album of the Year award upon John Coltrane’s Blue Trane. Buddy Guy won Blues Artist of the Year honors, and 100 Years Of Blues (Alligator) by Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite won Blues Album of the Year. Bob Dylan swept the Beyond categories as Beyond Artist of the Year and Album of the Year with Rough And Rowdy Ways (Columbia).

Buy the August issue HERE for the complete listings. And, complete articles from the issue will begin appearing online next month. Meantime, here’s a complete list of the winners. DB

Hall of Fame
Roy Hargrove

Artist of the Year
Chick Corea (passed 02/9/21)

Jazz Group
Chick Corea Trio

Big Band
Maria Schneider Orchestra

Jazz Album
Maria Schneider, Data Lords (Artist Share)

Historical Album
John Coltrane, Blue World (Impulse)

Ambrose Akinmusire

Trombone Shorty

Soprano Saxophone
Branford Marsalis

Alto Saxophone
Kenny Garrett

Tenor Saxophone
Chris Potter

Baritone Saxophone
James Carter

Anat Cohen

Hubert Laws

Chick Corea (passed 2/9/21)

Chick Corea (passed 2/9/21)

Joey DeFrancesco

Pat Metheny

Christian McBride

Electric Bass
Stanley Clarke

Regina Carter

Brian Blade

Poncho Sanchez

Stefon Harris

Miscellaneous Instrument
Béla Fleck (banjo)

Female Vocalist
Cécile McLorin Salvant

Male Vocalist
Kurt Elling

Maria Schneider

Maria Schneider

Record Label
Blue Note

Blues Artist or Group
Buddy Guy

Blues Album
Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite,
100 Years Of Blues (Alligator)

Beyond Artist or Group
Bob Dylan

Beyond Album
Bob Dylan, Rough And Rowdy Ways (Columbia)

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