DownBeat Announces Winners of the 2018 Int’l Critics Poll


Pianist Vijay Iyer topped two categories in the DownBeat Critics Poll: Jazz Artist and Jazz Group (for the Vijay Iyer Sextet).

(Photo: Jimmy & Dena Katz)

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.


Jazz Artist: Vijay Iyer

Jazz Album: Cécile McLorin Salvant, Dreams And Daggers (Mack Avenue)

Hall of Fame: Benny Golson and Marian McPartland

Historical Album: Miles Davis & John Coltrane, The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 (Columbia/Legacy)

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

Flute: Nicole Mitchell

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

Composer: Muhal Richard Abrams (1930–2017)

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 Artist (TIE): Kris Davis and Julian Lage

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

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