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Jazz Critics Gone Wild, Volume 1


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Using words such as "unprecedented," "mind-boggling," "preposterous" and "what the s—t 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 impossible—even 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 Fame—Oscar Peterson, Lars Gullin, Erwin Lehn, Rob McConnell, John Dankworth, Francy Boland, Putte Wickman.

Jazz Group—Jan Lundgren Trio, Alan Barnes Octet, Stan Tracey Octet.

Big Band—SWR 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.

Trumpet—James 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.

Trombone—Mark 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 Sax—Peter Weniger, Jim Galloway, Dave O'Higgins, Anat Cohen, Campbell Ryga, Lennart Aberg, Markus Lihocky, Art Theman, Quinsin Nachoff.

Alto Sax—Peter King, George Robert, Howard McGill, P.J. Perry, Francesco Cafiso, Klaus Graf, Andy Mackintosh, Sam Mayne, Amanda Sedgwick, Takashi Furuya, Dave Turner, Krister Andersson.

Tenor Sax—Ferdinand Povel, Gianni Basso, Leo Jansson, Magnus Lindgren, Andi Maile, Igor Butman, Don Weller, Mike Murley, Bobby Wellins, Lennart Johnsson, Nigel Hitchcock, Andy Scherrer, Tomas Franck, Ben Castle, Axel Kuhn.

Baritone Sax—Alan Barnes, John Hogman, Jean Frechette, Michael Lutzeier, John Williams, Steffen Schorn, Alexander Dovgopoly, Tadayuki Harada, Paroni Paakkulainen, Jay Craig.

Clarinet—Paquito D'Rivera, Rolf Kuhn.

Flute—Gareth Lockrane, Peter Guidi.

Piano—Oliver Jones, Jan Lundgren, Renee Rosnes, Stan Tracey, Junko Moriya, Eliane Elias, Don Thompson, Peter Beets, Craig Milverton, Daniel Karlsson, Stewy von Wattenwyl, Goran Strandberg, John Horler, Frank Chastenier.

Organ—Kjell Ohman, Makoto Ozone.

Guitar—Ed Bickert, Ingo Cramer, Reg Schwager, Frode Kjekstad, Dave Cliff, Lars Johnsson, Anders "Chico" Lindvall, Krister Palmqvist, Klaus-Peter Schopfer, Bill Coon, Paul Shigihara.

Bass—Dave Holland, Mads Vinding, Yasuhito Mori, Alec Dankworth, Martin Sjostedt, Neil Swainson, Nicki Parrott, Roy Babbington, Ingmar Heller, Jos Machtel, Martin Wind, Thomas Oveson, Boris Koslov.

Drums—Pete Cater, Wolfgang Haffner, Francois Laudet, Taro Koyama, Martijn Vink, Terry Clarke, Johan Lofcrantz, Ted Warren, Hans Dekker, Kevin Dempsey, Holger Nell, Tappy Iwase, Clark Tracey, Jukkis Uitola, Graham Cope.

Percussion—Alegre Correa, Joe Legwabe, Pernel Saturnino.

Vibes—Peter Appleyard, Dizzy Krisch, Christophe Lemarec, Frank Ricotti.

Miscellaneous Instrument—Toots Thielemans, harmonica; James Morrison, everything else.

Male Vocalist—No nominations submitted.

Female Vocalist—Roberta Gambarini, Cleo Laine, Diana Krall.

Composer—Bert Joris, Phil Nimmons, Jill Townsend, Helge Albin, Eliane Elias, Jan Kaspersen, Mathias Ruegg, Christina Fuchs, Colin Byrne, Hakan Brostrom, Tom Bancroft, Tony Faulkner, Thomas Clausen, Dave O'Higgins, Jerker Lindstrom, Cennet Jonsson, Tim Amann.

Arranger—Peter Herbolzheimer, Rick Wilkins, Bert Joris, Kenichi Tsunoda, Phil Nimmons, Pierre Dorge, Jill Townsend, Junko Moriya, Chris Walden, Rob Pronk, Hizakazu Noguchi, Hazel Leach, Vic Vogel, Michael Garrick, Mace Francis, Mats Holmquist, Norio Maeda.

Needless to say, this is a collector's edition, as one cannot envision another critics' poll quite like it, at least not in the U.S. Perhaps on the planet Ultron... but that's impossible, isn't it. (Or is it?)

Gotcha! April Fools!

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