NPR Music – The 2015 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

NPR Music is pleased to present the results of a poll where 147 jazz critics selected their favorite recordings of 2015.

Maria Schneider and Rudresh Mahanthappa didn’t exactly tie for Best Album of the Year honors — but declaring a tie seems fitting to the quality of this year’s list.

For 10 consecutive years, this poll has been a labor of love by eminent critic Francis Davis. It’s grown tremendously since he initially submitted the consensus of 30 writers to The Village Voice in 2006. Over the last month, print journalists, bloggers and broadcasters nominated more than 700 different albums. We’re thrilled to host his exhaustive project on our site.

Below are full results of the 2015 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, led by a playlist of the Top 10 overall picks. You’ll find a list of the entire Top 60 in the voting for Jazz Album of the Year, with the top finishers in Latin Jazz, Vocal, Debut and Reissue/Historical (“Rara Avis”) categories as well. (You can find all the raw data, including individual ballots, at the website of Tom Hull, who annually collates all the information from the poll.)

Davis shares his thoughts on each of 2015’s Top 10 Jazz Albums below. You’ll also want to read his take on the poll results — and by extension, the year in jazz — including his personal picks for the year’s 10 best. We invite you to browse and have a listen. —Patrick Jarenwattananon, NPR Music

The 2015 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll Top 10

1 (tie). Rudresh Mahanthappa, ‘Bird Calls’ (ACT)
1 (tie). Maria Schneider Orchestra, ‘The Thompson Fields’ (ArtistShare)
3. Jack DeJohnette, ‘Made in Chicago’ (ECM)
4. Kamasi Washington, ‘The Epic’ (Brainfeeder)
5. Vijay Iyer Trio, ‘Break Stuff’ (ECM)
6. Henry Threadgill Zooid, ‘In for a Penny, In for a Pound’ (Pi)
7. Mary Halvorson, ‘Meltframe’ (Firehouse 12)
8. Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance, ‘Synovial Joints’ (Pi)
9. Charles Lloyd, ‘Wild Man Dance’ (Blue Note)
10. Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth, ‘Epicenter’ (Clean Feed)
-Chris Lightcap is a spry bassist (and occasional guitarist), as well as an inventive composer whose tunes prove to be more complicated than first meets the ear. His longstanding, on-and-off quintet featuring Craig Taborn on keyboards, Gerald Cleaver on drums, and Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek on saxophones (practically a collection of underground all-stars), is one of jazz’s best-kept secrets, but maybe Epicenter’s high ranking means the secret is finally out. The highlight this time is a version of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” that captures the essence of Nico’s deadpan chant and the ominous drone of John Cale’s electric viola. It’s the best Velvet Underground cover I remember ever hearing. (132 points, on 18 ballots.)


11. Fred Hersch, Solo (Palmetto). 105.5 points (on 19 ballots).
12. The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch). 103.5 (19)
13. Cecile McLorin Salvant, For One To Love (Mack Avenue). 99.5 (16)
14. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, You’ve Been Watching Me (ECM). 98.5 (14)
15. Myra Melford, Snowy Egret (ENJA/Yellowbird). 94.5 (15)
16. Ryan Truesdell’s Gil Evans Project, Live at Jazz Standard: Lines of Color (ArtistShare). 88 (15)
17. John Scofield, Past Present (Impulse). 84 (15)
18. Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motéma). 83.5 (13)
19. Jose James, Yesterday I Had the Blues (Blue Note). 81.5 (16)
20 (tie). Chris Potter, Imaginary Cities (ECM). 72 (12)
20 (tie). Matt Mitchell, Vista Accumulation (Pi). 72 (12)
22. JD Allen Trio, Graffiti (Savant). 71 (11)
23. Mike Reed’s People Places & Things, A New Kind of Dance (482 Music). 66.5 (11)
24. Matthew Shipp Trio, The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear). 66 (16)
25. Amir ElSaffar, Crisis (Pi). 63 (14)
26. Liberty Ellman, Radiate (Pi). 62 (11)
27. Ran Blake, Ghost Tones: Portraits of George Russell (A-Side). 61 (9)
28. Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, Artifacts (482 Music). 57.5 (13)
29. Dave Douglas Quintet, Brazen Heart (Greenleaf). 56 (10)
30. Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Tokyo Adagio (Impulse). 51 (8)**
31. Roscoe Mitchell Quartet, Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa). 49 (7)
32. Chris Dingman, The Subliminal and the Sublime (Inner Arts Initiative) 46 (9)
33. Irene Schweizer & Han Bennink Welcome Back (Intakt). 46 (8)
34. Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern (Columbia). 45 (8)
35. Brad Mehldau, 10 Years Solo Live (Nonesuch). 43 (7)
36. Terell Stafford, Brotherly Love: Celebrating Lee Morgan (Capri). 42 (5)
37 (tie). Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup). 41 (7)
37 (tie). Danilo Perez/John Patitucci/Brian Blade, Children of The Night (Mack Avenue). 41 (7)
37 (tie). Dave Stryker, Messin’ With Mister T (Strikezone). 41 (7)
40. Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor, Tales of the Unforeseen (TUM). 41 (6)
41. Wadada Leo Smith & John Lindberg, Celestial Weather (TUM). 39.5 (9)
42. Anat Cohen, Luminosa (Anzic). 39 (7)
43. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Live in Cuba (Blue Engine). 38.5 (6)
44. Tom Harrell, First Impressions: Debussy and Ravel Project (HighNote). 38 (7)
45. Noah Preminger, Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar (self-released). 37 (8)
46. Kris Davis Infrasound, Save Your Breath (Clean Feed). 37 (7)
47. Julian Lage, World’s Fair (Modern Lore). 36 (6)
48. Christian McBride Trio, Live at the Village Vanguard (Mack Avenue). 35.5 (6)
49. Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet, Intents and Purposes (Enja). 35 (8)
50. Tomeka Reid, Quartet (Thirsty Ear). 34.5 (6)
51. Erik Friedlander, Oscalypso (Skipstone). 34 (8)
52 (tie). Jon Irabagon, Behind the Sky (Irrabagast). 33 (8)
52 (tie). Jacob Garchik, Ye Olde (Yestereve). 33 (8)
54. James Brandon Lewis, Days of FreeMan (OKeh). 32 (6)
55. Harold Mabern, Afro Blue (Smoke Sessions). 31 (6)
56 (tie). Chick Corea & Bela Fleck, Two (Concord Jazz). 31 (5)
56 (tie). Ingrid Laubrock, Roulette of the Cradle (Intakt). 31 (5)
58. Makaya McCraven, In the Moment (International Anthem). 30 (5)
59. Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble, Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarland (Planet Arts). 30 (4)
60. Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas, Sound Prints: Live at Monterey Jazz Festival (Blue Note). 29 (5)


Voters were asked to rank their top 10 albums released in 2015. A No. 1 ranking earned 10 points, a No. 2 earned 9 points, and so on. Listings on unranked ballots received 5.5 points each. In the Reissue/Rara Avis category, voters ranked three releases of either previously-published material or unreleased recordings from over 10 years ago. Voters also picked their single favorite Vocal, Latin jazz and Debut recordings of the year.




+ There are no comments

Add yours

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.