2011 Jazz Journalists Association Awards

The Jazz Journalists Association held its annual awards party at the City Winery in New York City Saturday afternoon, June 10. Here is a partial list of the winners, followed in parentheses by the musicians I voted for. The awards covered the period from April 15, 2010 to April 15, 2011. (The full list of finalists and winners can be found here and here.

RECORDING OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Joe Lovano's Us Five, Bird Songs (Blue Note). My Pick: Jason Moran, Ten (Blue Note). Lovano's Charlie Parker tribute is a good album, but Moran's is a masterpiece, the career highlight of the most impressive, versatile jazz musician of his age.
HISTORICAL RECORDING OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Duke Ellington, The Complete 1932–1940 Brunswick, Columbia and Master Recordings of Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra (Mosaic). My Pick: Henry Threadgill, The Complete Novus & Columbia Recordings of Henry Threadgill & Air (Mosaic). The Threadgill was a revelation, though I must confess, I haven't heard the Ellington.
MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Sonny Rollins.
My Pick: Sonny Rollins. (Who else?)
UP & COMING ARTIST OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Ambrose Akinmusire.
My Pick: Ambrose Akinmusire. (Ditto.)
COMPOSER OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Jason Moran.
My Pick: Jason Moran. The other nominees are all top-notch (Threadgill, Maria Schneider, John Hollenbeck), but Moran is showing the way.
ARRANGER OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Bill Holman.

My Pick: Maria Schneider. This one's a puzzler. Holman is great, but I don't think he's done anything new in the last year; I asked around, and other critics at the party didn't think so either.
LARGE ENSEMBLE OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Mingus Big Band.
My Pick: Maria Schneider Orchestra. I would have put two other candidates ahead of MBB too, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society and John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble.
SMALL ENSEMBLE OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Joe Lovano's Us Five.
My Pick: Jason Moran's Bandwagon. Again, no disrespect to the protean J.L., but I think the choice here is pretty clear cut.
TENOR SAXOPHONE OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Sonny Rollins.
My Pick: Sonny Rollins. (Who else?)
ALTO SAXOPHONE OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Rudresh Mahanthappa.
My Pick: Ornette Coleman. In my book, Ornette Coleman is the alto sax of the year in any year he blows a note in public, but Manhathappa was my 2nd choice: galvanizing, virtuosic, with a creative, riveting concept and sound.
TRUMPETER OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Ambrose Akinmusire.
My Pick: Dave Douglas. Akinmusire is the most promising young trumpeter to come along since...well, since Dave Douglas, and Dave has developed quite a bit since those days.
CLARINETIST OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Anat Cohen.
My Pick: Don Byron. I'm a big admirer of Anat Cohen, but c'mon. Anyone who's heard Byron play lately (as I did, at the Jazz Standard a couple weeks ago) knows there is no more versatile, virtuosic, swinging, or heady jazz clarinetist around.
TROMBONIST OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Wycliffe Gordon.
My Pick: Steve Davis. I have no problem with Gordon.
PIANIST OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Fred Hersch.
My Pick: Jason Moran. Hersch is a wonder, though, no question, especially given his recent recovery from a debilitating coma.
GUITARIST OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Russell Malone.
My Pick: Bill Frisell. Another puzzler: all of the other nominees—Frisell, Jim Hall, Marc Ribot, or Mary Halvorson—are far more engaging than Malone in every way.
BASSIST OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Christian McBride.
My Pick: Charlie Haden. But McBride's amazing performance at Sonny Rollins' 80th birthday concert justifies the award.
DRUMMER OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Matt Wilson.
My Pick: Paul Motian. I like Wilson a lot, but Motian is a magician, and Roy Haynes (another candidate) a miracle.
VIOLINIST OF THE YEAR:
Winner: Billy Bang.
My Pick: Jenny Scheinman. Billy Bang died earlier this year, and he was a truly innovative, soulful player.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR INSTRUMENTS RARE IN JAZZ:
Winner: Toots Thielemans, harmonica.
My Pick: Scott Robinson, specialty brass and reeds. No complaint, though.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
Winner: Jimmy Heath.
My Pick: Paul Motian. I went with Motian because he continues to advance the art of drumming, but Heath is very cool too.

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Comments
cobra_verde's picture
Motian Recommendation

Fred, hi, could you recommend a favorite recording with Paul Motian? -Jesse

Fred Kaplan's picture
Among his albums as a leader,

Among his albums as a leader, I'd recommend "Time and Time Again" and "I Have the Room Above Her" (both trio dates with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano). Of the many more albums as a sideman (the best of which are better), go with (above all) Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby" and "Sunday at the Village Vanguard," Charlie Haden's "Montreal Tapes" discs (especially the ones with Geri Allen and Paul Bley), Paul Bley's "Notes," "Not Two, Not One," and "Memoirs"), and a trio album with Bill Frisell and Ron Carter. (Notice a pattern?) Better still, see him live. Caveat: He NEVER leaves Manhattan these days, so if you don't live in NYC, you have to visit.

cobra_verde's picture
Motian Recommendation

Thanks for the recommendations. I do believe I see a pattern! I have the Bill Evans dates and will spend some time with your other picks.

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