Give the Bass Player Some: Ron Carter & Esperanza Spalding Top 77th Annual DownBeat Readers Poll

Veteran bassist Ron Carter and young bassist-singer Esperanza Spalding, a Grammy-winning star, grabbed the top spots in this year’s DownBeat Readers Poll.

Carter, an enormously influential double bass master heard on thousands of jazz recordings, a successful solo artist but probably best known for his association with Miles Davis’s second great quintet in the ’60s, was ushered into the Hall of Fame, just beating blues legend B.B. King.

Spalding, a gifted vocalist, upright and electric bassist, and songwriter who has wowed audiences as a leader and as a member of Joe Lovano’s US FIVE band (#14 in the Jazz Group category), won in the categories of Jazz Artist and Jazz Album of the Year, the latter for her pop-infused “Radio Music Society.”

Interestingly, neither won in the two bass categories: Christian McBride won for (double) Bass, while Stanley Clarke, who rode Return to Forever to stardom, won for Electric Bass.

Wayne Shorter, Carter’s old colleague in that Miles band, won in two categories — Soprano Saxophone, and Composer

The more than 17,000 voters in the poll, somewhat surprisingly, honored the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the Jazz Group category, and Big Band honors went to the Maria Schneider Orchestra, whose leader also won for Arranger.

(Complete list of winners)

Other honorees:

  • Trumpet: Wynton Marsalis
  • Trombone: Trombone Shorty
  • Alto Saxophone: Kenny Garrett
  • Tenor Saxophone: Sonny Rollins
  • Baritone Saxophone: James Carter
  • Clarinet: Anat Cohen
  • Flute: Hubert Laws
  • Piano: Brad Mehldau
  • Keyboard: Herbie Hancock
  • Organ: Joey DeFrancesco
  • Guitar: Pat Metheny
  •  Violin: Regina Carter
  • Drums: Jack DeJohnette
  • Vibes: Gary Burton
  • Percussion: Airto Moreira
  • Miscellaneous Instrument: Toots Thielemans
  • Female Vocalist: Diana Krall
  • Record label: Blue Note
  • Blues Artist or Group: B.B. King
  • Blues Album: Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton, “Play the Blues: Live From Jazz at Lincoln Center”
  • Beyond Artist or Group: Robert Glasper
  • Beyond Album: Robert Glasper Experiment, “Black Radio”

For more on the poll, including interviews with the winners, get the mag’s December issue or click here.

Airto, Last Night at USF

The great Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira came to USF in Tampa this week for a workshop, a talk, and, last night, an exuberant show in the intimate setting of Theatre 2 (portrait courtesy of Joseph Gamble).

Airto, who was an essential ingredient of Miles’ early ’70s  jazz-funk-fusion projects and went on to play with the original versions of both Weather Report and Return to Forever,  alternated between drumset and a table full of percussion toys during the concert. He was accompanied by his son-in-law, Krishna Booker, also a percussionist (and son of late, great bassist Walter Booker, Airto’s connection to many jazz greats in the late ’60s ).

For the first part of the show, the two joined the USF faculty jazz group, for a set of Airto’s compositions — some incorporating bossa grooves, one in 6/4 (or 3/2), one in 7/4. Several pieces had tenor saxophonist Jack Wilkins, head of jazz studies at USF, and trombonist Tom Brantley joining for unison lines, with Airto occasionally contributing wordless vocals. Brantley, with and without a mute, Wilkins, and LaRue Nickelson, whose guitar sometimes sported a fusion-style overdriven burr, turned in several of the evening’s most inspired solos. The group also included Mark Neuenschwander on acoustic and electric bass, pianist Chris Rottmeyer and drummer Ian Goodman.

Airto, for his solo piece, pounded out complex, driving rhythms on a large tambourine, sang along in Portuguese, used his voice (sans electronics) to create some harmonic overtones, and at the end added a whistle to create the feeling of a street parade at a Carnaval celebration in his home country. Booker turned in a brief “beatbox” solo – mouth sounds recreating hip-hop rhythms.

The show closed with a short set nicely contrasting with what came before. Brantley directed USF Jazz Ensemble 1 in performances of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” and “La Fiesta,” written by Chick Corea. Airto reminded listeners that he appeared on the original version of the latter tune, on the debut Return to Forever album, recorded in 1972 but not released in the U.S. until 1975.