Recently the August 2022 issue of DownBeat magazine hit newsstands, mailboxes, and computers. And it contained the 70th annual critics poll with voting from 114 jazz critics from around the globe. Reading that poll from the time I was an early teenager certainly helped shape my listening habits. Though, in more recent years, when I’ve been one of the critics voting in the poll, I take the long-standing DownBeat survey, like any poll – with a few grains of salt substitute.
In any case, since moving to Denver, the first thing I do when that August issue comes out is check out how many players connected to Colorado are found somewhere among the established and rising players listed. That may not sound very cosmopolitan, but most people understand the motivation.
You don’t have to get too far into the poll to get to the list of top jazz groups and on the list are guitarist Bill Frisell’s Trio and alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthapa’s Hero Trio. Frisell grew up here and Rudresh is from Boulder. Along with those Colorado connections, the drummer in the Hero Trio is Rudy Royston who is from Denver. Also, both Rudresh and Rudy are on the list of top players when it comes to their instruments. The same is true of Javon Jackson on the tenor saxophone list, Dianne Reeves in the female vocal category, Kirk Knuffke on trumpet/cornet, and Tia Fuller on flute, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, and rising star in composing categories.
Trumpeter/cornetist Ron Miles is also on the composer list as is saxophonist Fuller, while Nate Wooley is on the rising star trumpet and producer lists. Bassist Derrick Hodge is also on the rising star producer compilation.
Several of Colorado connection players also took the second/silver spot in their categories: Ron Miles on trumpet/cornet; Bill Frisell on guitar; and Ben Goldberg on clarinet
Lastly, in the survey’s album of the year listing, James Brandon Lewis’ “Jesup Wagon,” the Red Lily Quintet featured on the saxophonist’s album has Kirk Knuffke on trumpet/cornet.
The next time people query you about the Colorado jazz scene, just read them this list. It’s pretty good evidence for a positive response.
Jazz Notes – August 1, 2022