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The 2011 Expanded Critics’ Poll

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

After the encouraging response we received to last year’s inaugural full-length Critics’ Poll, we decided to make it an annual tradition. Our regular contributors were asked to vote in the same categories that make up our yearly Readers’ Poll, ranking their top five choices in each. The poll focuses on artists’ achievements during 2011, as opposed to their careers in whole.

Winners below are bolded; runners-up are listed in order of number of points. THE EDITORS


Artist of the Year
∙ Sonny Rollins

∙ Jason Moran

∙ Joe Lovano

∙ Esperanza Spalding

∙ Rudresh Mahanthappa

New Artist
∙ Ambrose Akinmusire

∙ Ben Williams

∙ Warren Wolf


Acoustic Group
∙ Charles Lloyd New Quartet

∙ Joe Lovano Us Five

∙ James Farm

∙ Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette

∙ Jason Moran & the Bandwagon

Contemporary/Electric Group
∙ Return to Forever IV

∙ Medeski, Martin & Wood/Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood*

∙ The Robert Glasper Experiment

∙ Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Samdhi

∙ Yellowjackets

[*MMW and MSMW tied for second place. Combined, they would have won the category.]

Big Band
∙ Maria Schneider Orchestra

∙ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

∙ Mingus Big Band

∙ Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band

∙ Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

Vocal Group
∙ The Manhattan Transfer

∙ Afro Blue (Howard University)

∙ Take 6

Blues Artist
∙ Buddy Guy

∙ Tedeschi Trucks Band

∙ Eric Clapton

∙ North Mississippi All-Stars


Record Label

∙ Sunnyside

∙ Blue Note

∙ Concord Music Group

∙ Pi Recordings

∙ Montreal International Jazz Festival

∙ Newport Jazz Festival

∙ Monterey Jazz Festival

∙ New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

∙ Undead Jazzfest

∙ Village Vanguard

∙ Jazz Standard

∙ Birdland

∙ Yoshi’s (Oakland & San Francisco)

∙ Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola


New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans by John Swenson (Oxford University Press)
∙ Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice by Tad Hershorn (University of California Press)

What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years by Ricky Riccardi (Pantheon Books)

All the Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennettby David Evanier (Wiley)

Blue Notes in Black and White: Photography and Jazz by Benjamin Cawthra (University of Chicago Press)

Film/DVD/TV Series
Treme (HBO Original Series)

∙ Jazz Icons Series 5 (Reelin’ in the Years/Mosaic DVDs)

Icons Among Us (Four-Disc Edition/CD-ROM Study Guide) (IndiePix)

Syndicated Radio Program
The Checkout With Josh Jackson (WBGO)
∙ Jazz After Hours With Jim Wilke (PRI)
∙ JazzSet With Dee Dee Bridgewater (NPR)

∙ Judy Carmichael’s Jazz Inspired (SiriusXM)


∙ Ambrose Akinmusire

∙ Dave Douglas

∙ Terence Blanchard

∙ Wynton Marsalis

∙ Nicholas Payton

∙ Wycliffe Gordon

∙ Steve Turre

∙ Robin Eubanks

∙ Steve Davis

∙ Josh Roseman

∙ Anat Cohen

∙ Don Byron

∙ Paquito D’Rivera

∙ Ken Peplowski

∙ Chris Speed

Tenor Saxophone
∙ Sonny Rollins

∙ Joe Lovano

∙ Charles Lloyd

∙ JD Allen

∙ Chris Potter

Alto Saxophone
∙ Rudresh Mahanthappa

∙ Miguel Zenón

∙ Lee Konitz

∙ David Binney

∙ Steve Coleman

Soprano Saxophone
∙ Dave Liebman

∙ Branford Marsalis

∙ Wayne Shorter

∙ Jane Ira Bloom

∙ Jane Bunnett

Baritone Saxophone
∙ Gary Smulyan

∙ James Carter

∙ Claire Daly

∙ Ronnie Cuber

∙ Hamiet Bluiett

∙ Nicole Mitchell

∙ Henry Threadgill

∙ Charles Lloyd

∙ Jane Bunnett

∙ Jamie Baum

∙ Regina Carter

∙ Jenny Scheinman

∙ Mark Feldman

∙ Jean-Luc Ponty

∙ Billy Bang

∙ Jason Moran

∙ Brad Mehldau

∙ Vijay Iyer

∙ Keith Jarrett

∙ Chick Corea

Electric Keyboards
∙ Chick Corea

∙ Uri Caine

∙ Craig Taborn

∙ Robert Glasper

∙ John Medeski

∙ Dr. Lonnie Smith

∙ Joey DeFrancesco

∙ Larry Goldings

∙ Gary Versace

∙ John Medeski

∙ Bill Frisell

∙ John Scofield

∙ Julian Lage

∙ Kurt Rosenwinkel

∙ Pat Metheny

Acoustic Bass
∙ Christian McBride

∙ Ron Carter

∙ Dave Holland

∙ Charlie Haden

∙ Ben Allison

Electric Bass
∙ Stanley Clarke

∙ Steve Swallow

∙ Matthew Garrison

∙ Christian McBride

∙ Victor Wooten

∙ Stefon Harris

∙ Gary Burton

∙ Jason Adasiewicz

∙ Warren Wolf

∙ Joe Locke

∙ Roy Haynes

∙ Paul Motian

∙ Jack DeJohnette

∙ Eric Harland

∙ Jeff “Tain” Watts

∙ Poncho Sanchez

∙ Cyro Baptista

∙ Zakir Hussain

∙ Sammy Figueroa

∙ Airto Moreira

∙ Kurt Elling

∙ Tony Bennett

∙ Freddy Cole

∙ Theo Bleckmann

∙ José James

Female Vocalist
∙ Gretchen Parlato

∙ Dianne Reeves

∙ Tierney Sutton

∙ Cassandra Wilson

∙ René Marie

Miscellaneous Instruments (banjo, harmonica, cello, oud, et al.)

[four winners]

∙ Béla Fleck

∙ Erik Friedlander

∙ Gregoire Maret

∙ Toots Thielemans

∙ Vince Mendoza

∙ Maria Schneider

∙ John Hollenbeck

∙ Bob Belden

∙ Guillermo Klein

∙ Maria Schneider

∙ Ambrose Akinmusire

∙ John Hollenbeck

∙ Darcy James Argue

∙ Wayne Shorter

Originally Published