Try as I might to ignore requests to vote in polls, I don’t seem to be able to say no to Francis Davis. This year, the eminent critic persuaded 136 people to take part in his annual critics poll, which he has moved to the website of National Public Radio. He asked writers, broadcasters, bloggers and others to name their choices for the best jazz recordings of the year. The results are in.
The overall winner, hands down, is Wayne Shorter, 80 years old and, evidently, indefatigable. In his introduction to the poll results, this is some of what Mr. Davis has to say about Shorter.
It says a lot about his enduring hold on jazz listeners that over a half century into his career, the descriptive phrases most commonly put in front of Wayne Shorter’s name — along with “the great saxophonist and composer” — remain “the elusive” and “the enigmatic.” The inside tray card to Shorter’s Without a Net, the runaway Best Album winner in this year’s NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, pictures him from the back, in spotlighted silhouette. It’s reminiscent of the cover of 2002’s Footprints Live!, where only half of his face was visible in the mirror of a navigator’s compass. Both poses are evocative of his solos, his tunes and his persona, all of which routinely invite us to fill in the blanks.
For the August Rifftides review of the Shorter album, go here.
Here is the poll’s list of the top 10 finishers.
1. Wayne Shorter, Without A Net (Blue Note)
2. Craig Taborn Trio, Chants (ECM)
3. Charles Lloyd & Jason Moran, Hagar’s Song (ECM)
4. Cécile McLorin Salvant, Woman Child (Mack Avenue)
5. Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Functional Arhythmia (Pi)
6. Tim Bern’s Snakeoil, Shadow Man (ECM)
7. Dave Douglas Quintet, Time Travel (Greenleaf)
8. Terence Blanchard, Magnetic (Blue Note)
9. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam)
10. Mary Halvorson Septet, Illusionary Sea (Firehouse 12)
The other categories are Reissues, Vocal, Debut and Latin. To see those results and a list of the top 50 choices, go to the NPR Music site. For what it’s worth, this is how I voted.
Best New Releases
1. Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette, Somewhere (ECM)
2. Wayne Shorter, Without A Net (Blue Note)
3. Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway, Live in Santa Fe: Duke at the Roadhouse (IPO)
4. Dave Holland, Prism (Dare2)
5. Bill Frisell, Big Sur (Okeh)
6. JD Allen, Grace (Savant)
7. Dave Douglas, DD/50 Special Edition 50th Birthday Recordings (Greenleaf Music)
8. Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, Whit Dickey, Gerald Cleaver, Enigma (Leo Records)
9. Steve Turre, The Bones of Art (High Note)
10. Rudresh Mahanthappa, Gamak (ACT)
Jeremy Steig, Flute Fever (International Phonograph)
Lester Young, Boston 1950 (Uptown)
Woody Shaw, The Complete Muse Sessions (Mosaic)
Best Vocal Album
Cécile McLorin Salvant, Woman Child (Mack Avenue)
Best Debut Album
Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, Imagery Manifesto (Lefkowitz-Brown)
Best Latin Jazz Album
Mark Weinstein, Todo Corazon (Jazzheads)