A new jazz radio station in England, theJazz, recently conducted a poll of its listeners to determine–as they put it–the “best ever jazz record.” This was the result, as reported on the BBC web site.
1. Miles Davis – So What
2. Dave Brubeck – Take Five
3. Louis Armstrong – West End Blues
4. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
5. Miles Davis – All Blues
6. John Coltrane – My Favourite Things
7. Weather Report – Birdland
8. Jamie Cullum – Twentysomething
9. Duke Ellington – Take The ‘A’ Train
10. Miles Davis – Blue In Green
If you go to the web site of theJazz and examine its list of the top 500 records, you will discover that recordings by Jamie Cullum, a young British singer and pianist, placed 29, 32, 33, 46, 53 and 54. Do listeners to theJazz hear something that puts him in a league with Davis, Brubeck, Coltrane and Ellington? Or is there just the slightest chance–shocking to suggest it, I know–that there was a bit of ballot stuffing by Jamie Cullum interests?
This sort of thing accentuates the absudity of surveys and polls that rank the popularity of art. It may encourage some of us to reevalute the wisdom of taking part in, for instance, critics polls.
Brian Owen says
Excellent points. I’m reminded of many “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” awards. The irony being that anyone truly needing more recognition probably isn’t well known enough to win an award.
Ken Dryden says
I have a lot of beef with surveys of this sort, even some of the critics’ polls, which tend to be overly biased toward free jazz. It is also very bizarre when critics choose incomplete box sets or the third/fourth incarnation of the same material repackaged by a major label as favorite reissues, as opposed to the many complete surveys compiled by Mosaic that include detailed notes and lots of great photos.
Bill Kirchner says
In his liner essay to his album “Let My Children Hear Music,” Charles Mingus nailed it with typical bluntness:
“Which, incidentally, brings to mind another thought: along with the jazz hump music and n—– contests, there has never been a contest to decide who is the King of the Trumpet in the Symphony. Or who is the Best Violin Soloist–Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, Salvatore Accardo? Or which is the Best String Quartet of the year–Budapest or Juilliard?”