Washington, Iyer Among Winners in 2016 DownBeat Critics Poll


Kamasi Washington topped three categories in the DownBeat Critics Poll, including Jazz Album of the Year, for his three-disc set, The Epic.

(Photo: Mike Park)

Acclaimed tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, veteran pianist Randy Weston, inventive pianist/keyboardist Vijay Iyer and bandleader Christine Jensen are among the winners in the 64th Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll.

Washington, whose album The Epic (Brainfeeder) was one of the most critically lauded releases in 2015, topped three categories in the poll: Jazz Album (for The Epic), Rising Star–Jazz Artist and Rising Star–Tenor Saxophone.

“Kamasi Washington has not only impressed the critics, he has also brought thousands of new listeners to the world of jazz,” said Bobby Reed, DownBeat editor. “Anyone who has heard The Epic realizes that this an artist with tremendous talent, drive and ambition.”

Weston, whose innovative music has long illustrated the connections between jazz and older musical forms that originated in Africa, was voted into the DownBeat Hall of Fame. The 90-year icon remains a popular draw on the concert circuit, with shows scheduled later this summer at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in New York City.

“The ever-youthful Randy Weston has expanded listeners’ understanding of what jazz is, how it originated and where it can go,” Reed said. “We’re thrilled to welcome him into the DownBeat Hall of Fame.”

Iyer was voted top Jazz Artist in the Critics Poll, marking the third time he has won the honor, following wins in 2012 and 2015.

Jensen, who has won multiple Juno Awards in her native Canada, topped two categories in the Critics Poll: Rising Star–Arranger and Rising Star–Big Band (for the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra).

The award for top Blues Artist or Group goes to Buddy Guy, who also topped the Blues Album category for Born To Play Guitar (RCA).

Critics honored the late David Bowie with two wins. He was voted the top Beyond Artist or Group, and the Beyond Album accolade went to Bowie’s disc Blackstar, which Columbia released just days before his death on Jan. 10.

The DownBeat Veterans Committee inducted songwriter Hoagy Carmichael (1899–1981) into the Hall of Fame, bringing the total number of inductees to 144.

Other winners in the poll include Joe Lovano (Tenor Saxophone), Anat Cohen (Clarinet), Robert Glasper (Keyboard), Marcus Miller (Electric Bass), Lisa Parrott (Rising Star–Baritone Saxophone), Liberty Ellman (Rising Star–Guitar) and Luques Curtis (Rising Star–Bass).

The August issue of DownBeat, which arrives on newsstands on July 19, has features on winning artists as well the complete results for all 62 categories, listing more than 1,200 artists who received votes in the poll.

The complete list of winners is below:


Hall of Fame: Randy Weston
Veterans Committee Hall of Fame: Hoagy Carmichael
Jazz Artist: Vijay Iyer
Jazz Album: Kamasi Washington, The Epic (Brainfeeder)
Historical Album: Miles Davis, Miles Davis At Newport 1955–1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy)
Jazz Group: Charles Lloyd Quartet
Big Band: Maria Schneider Orchestra
Trumpet: Ambrose Akinmusire
Trombone: Wycliffe Gordon
Soprano Saxophone: Wayne Shorter
Alto Saxophone: Rudresh Mahanthappa
Tenor Saxophone: Joe Lovano
Baritone Saxophone: Gary Smulyan
Clarinet: Anat Cohen

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