Salvant Tops 2019 DownBeat Critics Poll


Cécile McLorin Salvant performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on May 3.

(Photo: Adam McCullough)

Singer-songwriter Cécile McLorin Salvant is among the artists who topped multiple categories in the 2019 DownBeat International Critcs Poll, winning Jazz Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year. She has generated tremendous acclaim for her 2018 duo album, The Window (Mack Avenue), which she recorded with Sullivan Fortner, who is also the winner in two Critics Poll categories: Rising Star–Jazz Artist and Rising Star–Piano.

The complete results of the Critics Poll are published in the August issue of DownBeat, and a list of all the winners is below.

In the August cover story, Salvant addresses some misconceptions that observers have had regarding her repertoire. “Quite a few people see me as sort of a traditionalist or somebody who’s really looking back,” Salvant explained. “They ask why I’m so attracted to songs from the past and less about what I’m dealing with in terms of identity and what it means to be a human being and what it means to be a woman and those things I’m interested in.”

She also shared with DownBeat details about her a current project, the theatrical song cycle Ogresse, which is a collaboration with arranger/conductor Darcy James Argue and a 13-piece chamber ensemble.

Topping the Jazz Album of the Year category of the Critics Poll is saxophonist Wayne Shorter with Emanon (Blue Note), the ambitious project he recorded with his namesake quartet and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

DownBeat critics apparently were in accord with The Recording Academy, which in February presented Salvant with a Grammy in the category Best Jazz Vocal Album (for The Window) and gave Shorter a Grammy in the category Best Jazz Instrumental Album (for Emanon).

Other winners in the Critics Poll include Kurt Elling (Male Vocalist), Kenny Barron (Piano), Mary Halvorson (Guitar), Jane Ira Bloom (Soprano Saxophone), Miguel Zenón (Alto Saxophone), Miles Okazaki (Rising Star–Guitar), Allison Miller (Rising Star–Drums) and Joel Ross (Rising Star–Vibraphone).

Jazz icon Joey DeFrancesco topped the Organ category, and his collaboration with rock legend Van Morrison, You’re Driving Me Crazy (Legacy), was voted Beyond Album of the Year.

Anat Cohen topped the Clarinet category, and her namesake tentet was voted the winner of the category Rising Star–Big Band.

The Historical Album of the Year is John Coltrane’s Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album (Impulse!), which the saxophonist recorded with his quartet on March 6, 1963, in the studio of famed recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

The Blues Album of the Year is The Blues Is Alive And Well (RCA), by guitarist/vocalist Buddy Guy, who was voted the winner in the Blues Artist or Group category.

The Critics Poll also resulted in three inductions into the DownBeat Hall of Fame. Joining the elite club are pianist-vocalist-composer Nina Simone (1933–2003), and two disparate artists who were voted in via the DownBeat Veterans Committee. Innovative bassist Scott LaFaro (1936–’61) made a big impact in the jazz world during a far-too-brief career. In contrast, blues-influenced jazz vocalist Joe Williams (1918–’99) enjoyed a lengthy career that included a famous stint with the Count Basie Orchestra. All three Hall of Fame inductees are profiled in the August issue.

The complete list of winners is below. (Subscribe to DownBeat.) DB

(This article was updated July 1.)

2019 DownBeat Critics Poll

Hall of Fame: Scott LaFaro

Hall of Fame: Nina Simone

Hall of Fame: Joe Williams

Jazz Artist: Cécile McLorin Salvant

Jazz Album: Wayne Shorter, Emanon (Blue Note)

Historical Album: John Coltrane, Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album (Impulse!)

Jazz Group: Fred Hersch Trio

Big Band: Maria Schneider Orchestra

Trumpet: Ambrose Akinmusire

Trombone: Steve Turre

Soprano Saxophone: Jane Ira Bloom

Alto Saxophone: Miguel Zenón

Tenor Saxophone: Joe Lovano

Baritone Saxophone: Gary Smulyan

Clarinet: Anat Cohen

Flute: Nicole Mitchell

Piano: Kenny Barron

Keyboard: Robert Glasper

Organ: Joey DeFrancesco

Guitar: Mary Halvorson

Bass: Christian McBride

Electric Bass: Steve Swallow

Violin: Regina Carter

Drums: Brian Blade

Percussion: Hamid Drake

Vibraphone: Stefon Harris

Miscellaneous Instrument: Tomeka Reid (cello)

Female Vocalist: Cécile McLorin Salvant

Male Vocalist: Kurt Elling

Composer: Maria Schneider

Arranger: Maria Schneider

Record Label: ECM

Producer: Manfred Eicher

Blues Artist or Group: Buddy Guy

Blues Album: Buddy Guy, The Blues Is Alive And Well (RCA)

Beyond Artist or Group: Rhiannon Giddens

Beyond Album: Van Morrison & Joey DeFrancesco, You’re Driving Me Crazy (Legacy)

Rising Star Categories

Rising Star–Jazz Artist: Sullivan Fortner

Rising Star–Jazz Group: Sons of Kemet

Rising Star–Big Band: Anat Cohen Tentet

Rising Star–Trumpet: Adam O’Farrill

Rising Star–Trombone: Natalie Cressman

Rising Star–Soprano Saxophone: Tineke Postma

Rising Star–Alto Saxophone: Darius Jones

Rising Star–Tenor Saxophone: Dayna Stephens

Rising Star–Baritone Saxophone: Lauren Sevian

Rising Star–Clarinet: Shabaka Hutchings

Rising Star–Flute: Orlando “Maraca” Valle

Rising Star–Piano: Sullivan Fortner

Rising Star–Keyboard: Kit Downes

Rising Star–Organ: Kit Downes

Rising Star–Guitar: Miles Okazaki

Rising Star–Bass: Dezron Douglas

Rising Star–Electric Bass: Felix Pastorius

Rising Star–Violin: Aaron Weinstein

Rising Star–Drums: Allison Miller

Rising Star–Percussion: Warren Smith

Rising Star–Vibraphone: Joel Ross

Rising Star–Miscellaneous Instrument: Theon Cross (tuba)

Rising Star–Female Vocalist: Sara Serpa

Rising Star–Male Vocalist: Jacob Collier

Rising Star–Composer: Kamasi Washington

Rising Star–Arranger: Kamasi Washington

Rising Star–Producer: Ambrose Akinmusire

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