Each year, my main hope for our annual Critics’ and Readers’ Polls is always the same: that the results reflect the year in jazz I’ve just experienced with some precision and sense of posterity. It’d be dishonest to say I’ve never been surprised by these results, but generally I feel vindicated-especially this year, and even with regard to our Readers’ Poll. Conducted in the wilderness of the Internet, that poll can miss its ideal of committed JT readers thoughtfully reflecting on their favorite recent jazz records and concerts; instead, it often reflects warring fan bases and ancient, steadfast allegiances to particular artists and aesthetics. But the cream rose to the top for the 2015 tally, rightfully honoring jazz’s populist sensations. Pianist Joey Alexander’s precociously elegant musicianship-not to mention the almighty cheek-pinching factor-earned him Best New Artist. Vocalist Gregory Porter, in the heady midst of his rise as a theater-packing jazz-R&B star, nabbed Artist of the Year. Snarky Puppy, the turbo-charged unit working constantly to return fusion to its crowd-pleasing roots, won Best Electric Group. The Epic, the triple-disc set by saxophonist Kamasi Washington, won Best New Release, and thankfully so: It’s a finely played and programmed olive branch to the jazz-curious that leans on prime jazz and R&B history, not pop.
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