Skip to main content

 Albums of the Year, Downbeat Readers Poll 2019

I thought it would be interesting to list Downbeat magazine's 2019 Readers Poll, which presents an alternative to the Jazzwise list I posted a couple of weeks ago. I should point out that many of these albums were released in the second half of 2018, with Downbeat not running the polling exactly on the calendar year, meaning that albums like Wayne Shorter's excellent EMANON get included in the list.

The poll demonstrates what a broad-minded bunch the Downbeat readers are, mixing in the fusion of Snarky Puppy and spiritual jazz of Kamasi Washington alongside Diana Krall and Tony Bennett's irresistible Love is Here to Stay, or Joey DeFrancesco's In The Key of the Universe alongside albums by both Marsalis brothers. I must confess that I am not yet familiar with some of the albums in this poll, such as Cécile McLorin Salvant's The Window, or The Basie Orchestra's All About That Basie, so I will be enjoying catching up on these over the Christmas holidays.

Wayne Shorter

Emanon is an extraordinary musical and visual experience that presents a triple album of original music by Shorter performed by The Wayne Shorter Quartet—featuring Shorter on soprano and tenor saxophone with Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass, and Brian Blade on drums—with and without the 34-piece Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

Available Format: 3 CDs + 3 Vinyl Records

Diana Krall, Tony Bennett

Tony and Diana continue their 20 + year collaboration to release their first album together celebrating the songbook of the Gershwin brothers, the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century. This intimate record has Tony and Diana accompanied by the Bill Charlap Trio, enabling the essence of each song to be fully realized.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Kamasi Washington

Kamasi Washington is a titan amongst the new generation of jazz artists, whose visionary music recalls the soul jazz of Pharaoh Sanders, Alice and John Coltrane, but all with Washington unique artistry that speaks to modern times.

Available Format: 2 CDs

Chris Potter

For more than two decades, Chris Potter's limitless creativity, effortless virtuosity and vibrant sense of swing has wowed critics, musicians and fans alike, who cite him as one of the most influential saxophonists and inventive improvisors of the modern day.His new album, Circuits is immediate and uplifting, rooted in a strong sense of groove and intense improvisation. Featuring an all-star band of 23rd year keyboard and Blue Note Artist James Francies, drum virtuoso Eric Harland and bassist Linley Marthe. Blending a vibrant sound world of electronics, memorable hooky melodies and surprising turns of phrase, Circuits is sure to delight both the dedicated Potter fans and new listeners alike.

Available Format: Vinyl Record

The Count Basie Orchestra & Scotty Barnhart

All About That Basie brings together legendary artists from across jazz and pop (including Kurt Elling and Stevie Wonder) to join and celebrate the iconic Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of Scotty Barnhart. It's a collection of classic material, plus a twist on a few modern hits (Adele, Leonard Cohen, Stevie Wonder, and others).

Available Format: CD

Cécile McLorin Salvant & Sullivan Fortner

The Window, an album of duets between Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianist Sullivan Fortner, explores and extends the tradition of the piano-vocal duo and its expressive possibilities. With just Fortner's deft accompaniment to support McLorin Salvant, the two are free to improvise and rhapsodise, to play freely with time, harmony, melody and phrasing.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Snarky Puppy

Immigrance is all about movement. "The idea here is that everything is fluid, that everything is always moving and that we're all in a constant state of immigration," explains Michael League. "Obviously the album's title is not without political undertones." Like Culcha Vulcha, Immigrance is a studio project, and it features most of the same musicians. And though it shares that project's ace musicianship and dynamic, kinetic spirit, it is also more raw and moodier than its predecessor. Several of the compositions put a newfound emphasis on delivering simpler, streamlined impact. With Immigrance, Snarky Puppy is essentially practicing what it's preached all along: People from different places can bring their various strengths and experiences, and that can be beautiful and cohesive. The band itself is a representation of that musical expression.

Available Format: CD

For the original soundtrack of Bolden, nine-time GRAMMY Award winner Wynton Marsalis faced a nearly impossible task: to bring fellow trumpeter and New Orleanian Buddy Bolden, widely considered one of the fathers of jazz, back from the dead. But on this album, Marsalis enthusiastically resurrects the bawdy, brassy sound of Bolden as no one else can, throwing a Big Easy party that romps through some of Bolden’s most beloved material.

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

This Branford Marsalis Quartet album has won many an accolade this year, and is about as state-of-the-art as modern bop gets, with the whole band firing on all cylinders. There are also some gorgeous ballads on here, making this an extremely satisfying listen throughout.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Joey DeFrancesco

On his adventurous album, In the Key of the Universe, the master organist Joey DeFrancesco turns his musical attentions to his spiritual side, tapping into a strain of metaphysical jazz that’s fuelled sonic searchers for more than half a century. Joining him on this path to musical enlightenment is the legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC