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The 2016 Expanded Critics’ Poll

JT's critics choose their favorite musicians, books, festivals and more

Artist of the Year, Best Composer: Wadada Leo Smith (photo by Scott Groller/courtesy of Cuneiform Records)
Artist of the Year, Best Composer: Wadada Leo Smith (photo by Scott Groller/courtesy of Cuneiform Records)
Best Vocal Group: Tillery (photo courtesy of the artist)
Best Vocal Group: Tillery (photo courtesy of the artist)
Best Guitarist: Julian Lage (photo by Justin Camerer)

For this annual companion poll to last issue’s top 50 critic’s picks, more than 30 of our regular contributors participated in a survey based on our yearly readers’ poll. Voters were asked to focus on artists’ achievements during 2016 rather than assessing entire careers.

Winners are bolded; runners-up are listed below in order of number of points. An asterisk* denotes a tie. |  Evan Haga, Editor

Best New Artist

Jonathan Finlayson
Marquis Hill
Theo Croker*
Keyon Harrold*
David Virelles*

Artist of the Year

Wadada Leo Smith
Henry Threadgill
Chick Corea*
Andrew Cyrille*
Esperanza Spalding*

Best Acoustic Small Group/Artist

Henry Threadgill + ZOOID/Ensemble Double Up
Jack DeJohnette/Dave Holland/Jason Moran
JD Allen Trio
Charles Lloyd Quartet

Best Electric/Jazz-Rock/Contemporary Group/Artist

Mary Halvorson Octet
Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison
Robert Glasper Experiment
Julian Lage Trio


Best Big Band/Large Ensemble

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
Maria Schneider Orchestra
Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus
Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra

Best Record Label

Blue Note
Mack Avenue*

Best Book

Conversations in Jazz: The Ralph J. Gleason Interviews edited by Toby Gleason (Yale University)

How to Listen to Jazz by Ted Gioia (Basic)


Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty by Ben Ratliff (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus by Krin Gabbard (University of California Press)

Best Syndicated Radio Program

Jazz Night in America (NPR/WBGO/JALC)
Radio Deluxe With John Pizzarelli (Independent)
Jazz After Hours With Jeff Hanley (PRI)
Judy Carmichael’s Jazz Inspired (SiriusXM NPR)

Best Podcast

The Checkout (WBGO)
JazzTimes Spins & Riffs
A Noise From the Deep (Greenleaf)
We Insist! Jazz Speaks Out (WBGO)

Best Jazz Festival

Winter Jazzfest (NYC)
Newport Jazz Festival
Chicago Jazz Festival*
Monterey Jazz Festival*
Montreal International Jazz Festival*


Best Jazz Club

Village Vanguard
Jazz Standard
The Stone

Best DVD/Blu-ray

What Happened, Miss Simone? (Eagle Rock)
JACO: The Film (Iron Horse)
Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (Mug-Shot)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk: The Case of the Three Sided Dream (Arthaus Musik)

Best Trumpeter/Cornetist/Flugelhornist

Ambrose Akinmusire
Wadada Leo Smith
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Marquis Hill

Best Trombonist

Wycliffe Gordon
Steve Turre
Roswell Rudd
Ryan Keberle


Best Clarinetist

Anat Cohen
Ken Peplowski
Don Byron
Ben Goldberg

Best Tenor Saxophonist

Charles Lloyd
Joe Lovano
Donny McCaslin
JD Allen

Best Alto Saxophonist

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Steve Coleman
Gary Bartz*
Tim Berne*
Kenny Garrett*

Best Soprano Saxophonist

Jane Ira Bloom
Wayne Shorter
Branford Marsalis
Dave Liebman

Best Baritone Saxophonist

Gary Smulyan
James Carter
Mats Gustafsson
Hamiet Bluiett


Best Flutist

Nicole Mitchell
Charles Lloyd
Henry Threadgill
Hubert Laws

Best Violinist

Regina Carter
Mark Feldman
Jenny Scheinman
Scott Tixier

Best Pianist

Vijay Iyer
Jason Moran
Kris Davis*
Fred Hersch*
Keith Jarrett*

Best Keyboardist (Electric Piano, Synth)

Robert Glasper
Craig Taborn
Jason Lindner
Chick Corea

Best Organist

Dr. Lonnie Smith
Larry Goldings
Joey DeFrancesco
Mike LeDonne


Best Guitarist

Julian Lage
Mary Halvorson
John Scofield
Bill Frisell

Best Double Bassist

Dave Holland
Christian McBride
Ron Carter
Michael Formanek*
John Patitucci*

Best Electric Bassist

Steve Swallow
Matthew Garrison
Esperanza Spalding

Best Vibraphonist

Stefon Harris
Warren Wolf
Jason Adasiewicz
Steve Nelson

Best Percussionist

Pedrito Martinez
Cyro Baptista
Zakir Hussain
Roman Díaz


Best Drummer

Jack DeJohnette
Andrew Cyrille
Tyshawn Sorey
Billy Hart

Best Vocalist (Male)

Gregory Porter
Kurt Elling
Tony Bennett
Theo Bleckmann

Best Vocalist (Female)

Cécile McLorin Salvant
Cyrille Aimée
Dianne Reeves
Cassandra Wilson

Best Composer

Wadada Leo Smith
Henry Threadgill
Darcy James Argue
Tyshawn Sorey

Best Arranger

Maria Schneider
Darcy James Argue
Carla Bley
John Beasley


Best Instrumentalist (Misc.) (four winners)

Grégoire Maret (harmonica)      

Tomeka Reid (cello)         

Béla Fleck (banjo) 

Brandee Younger (harp)

Best Vocal Group

Take 6
New York Voices

Originally Published