Jazz Critics Gone Wild, Volume 1
Using words such as "unprecedented," "mind-boggling," "preposterous" and "what the st is going on here," the editors of BummedOut magazine, the country's leading Jazz periodical since the Original Dixieland Jass Band recorded "Livery Stable Blues," expressed their utter shock and disbelief this week when ballots submitted in the magazine's umpteenth Annual Critics' Poll listed not a single American-born musician among the winners or also-rans. What made the unparalleled result even more implausible is the fact that 98.6 percent of BummedOut's critics and reviewers live either in or around New York City and had never before voted for any musician west of the Ohio River.
"To say we were stunned would be an understatement," said editor-in-chief Koran Jablonsky. "It was almost totally insane. I say almost because Toots Thielemans did win the miscellaneous instruments category, as he has for the past eighty-seven years." To try and uncover the reasons behind the anomaly, the BummedOut staff turned to renowned psychic Alison DuNuttin who conducted telephone interviews with as many of the critics as possible before reaching her startling conclusion.
"Based on what I've been told by interviewees," she said, "this seems to be one of the most widespread cases of mass hypnosis I've ever seen, perhaps equaled only by the delusion that the last seven years have been good for this country or that Britney Spears has some sort of hidden talent. In brief, what I was told time and again by those who voted in the poll was that they were overcome by an irresistible urge to write in the names of 'different' musicians or groups on their ballot.
"'I was all set to pencil in "Sonny Rollins,"' one of them said, 'and thought I had, but when I looked at the ballot it said "Gianni Basso." Hell, I don't even know who Gianni Basso is! Sounds like some pansy opera singer to me.'" And so it went. When the ballots were completed, the critics were inexplicably moved to place them in envelopes, seal them, add stamps, and mail them to BummedOut magazine.
"Obviously, these people were not thinking clearly or acting on their own volition," said DuNuttin. "After all," she added, showing her vast knowledge of Jazz, "who in his or her right mind would vote for Peter King instead of Kenny G?" But that is exactly what happened, as King, from the UK, won the alto saxophone contest going away, leaving such perennial front-runners as Phil Woods and Ornette Coleman abandoned and wishing they had as many votes as Mike Gravel or Tom Tancredo.
While mass hypnosis may seem a likely explanation for the critics' bizarre behavior, what is not known as yet is the source of their trauma. One clue was offered the day after the poll was made public when a hitherto unknown group calling itself "Remote Aliens Gathered to Insure Musical Equality" (RAGTIME) claimed responsibility for the extraordinary outcome. But as the group also asserted that it is from the planet Ultron, which is about 756 light-years from earth (give or take a year), most scholars reasoned that such a journey would be impossibleeven though George Lucas observed that stranger things have happened, and set about buying the movie rights, just in case.
For the moment, at least, no one is quite sure what caused the critics to wander so far astray or why. All that is known is that the BummedOut poll was spun topsy turvy, and that readers were left scratching their heads and wondering whether Mark Nightingale is a bird or a plane, and why he was named the world's best Jazz trombonist. For the curious, here's a look at the poll as it appeared in this month's issue of BummedOut magazine (with vote totals omitted):
Hall of FameOscar Peterson, Lars Gullin, Erwin Lehn, Rob McConnell, John Dankworth, Francy Boland, Putte Wickman.
Jazz GroupJan Lundgren Trio, Alan Barnes Octet, Stan Tracey Octet.
Big BandSWR Big Band, Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra, Eric Miyashiro Big Band, Pete Cater Big Band, UMO Jazz Orchestra, Kenichi Tsunoda Big Band, Jill Townsend Orchestra, Sydney All-Star Big Band, Sandviken Big Band.
TrumpetJames Morrison, Claudio Roditi, Kenny Wheeler, Guido Basso, Till Bronner, Ack van Rooyen, Eric Miyashiro, Peter Asplund, Ingrid Jensen, Bert Joris, Guy Barker, Dusko Goykovich, Jan Wessels, Jan Allan, Andy Haderer.
TromboneMark Nightingale, Albert Mangelsdorff, Robert Bachner, Alastair Kay, Rodger Fox, Marc Godfroid, Ian Cumming, Bart van Lier, Ian McDougall, Dennis Rollins, Erling Kroner, Vincent Nilsson.
Soprano SaxPeter Weniger, Jim Galloway, Dave O'Higgins, Anat Cohen, Campbell Ryga, Lennart Aberg, Markus Lihocky, Art Theman, Quinsin Nachoff.
Alto SaxPeter King, George Robert, Howard McGill, P.J. Perry, Francesco Cafiso, Klaus Graf, Andy Mackintosh, Sam Mayne, Amanda Sedgwick, Takashi Furuya, Dave Turner, Krister Andersson.