The returns are for Downbeat magazine’s 72nd annual readers poll, and Pacquito D’Rivera took top honors in the clarinet category. This is of course, a most satisfactory outcome, as this blog has campaigned for D’Rivera in the clarinet category for two years in a row.
With the switch from paper ballots to online voting, participation in the poll was up dramatically. Editor Jason Koransky noted some surprising new winners emerged as a result, including Tony Bennett, who hard as it is to believe, topped the male vocalist category for the first time in his career this year. Another such winner was D’Rivera, who as Koransky writes: “had placed high but had never been named Clarinetist of the Year. Until Now.”
The official returns were 499 votes for D’Rivera over second place finishing Don Byron with 452 votes. In last year’s poll, Byron won the category with 250, with D’Rivera coming in second with 151.
In addition to obviously benefitting from online voting, D’Rivera also had the advantage of a highly acclaimed release fresh in the marketplace during the voting period. He also had the J.B. Spins campaign, supported by Val, George, and the Babalu blog community. Lest I get cocky, it should be noted I also recommended voting for Arturo Sandoval in the trumpet category, who failed to place this year. We’re not all-powerful here, but maybe we boosted turnout.
Regardless, D’Rivera is a worthy winner by any measurement. As mentioned, his latest CD Funk Tango has garnered universally glowing reviews. Additionally, D’Rivera, the Cuban defector, deserves respect for his willingness to speak out against the Castro dictatorship. He has also been known to administer reality checks to Che cultists and other apologists for oppression. Yet, despite this political incorrectness, he remains a beloved figure on the jazz scene, frequently appearing at high profile concerts and events. Congratulations to D’Rivera.