For current reviews of CD's and concerts as well as historical reviews of past releases Down beat cannot be beat. The articles are always interesting and the magazine blends the right mix of current and vintage musical information that makes every issue worth having. The Blindfold Test feature where some artist listens to a few recordings and tries to identify and offer commentary on the players is really cool. Especially when you can read what Charles Mingus has to say about other artists of his day as in the most recent issue. I look forward to every issue of Down Beat and recommend it to anyone who enjoys jazz.
The main bulk of Down Beat is reviews of albums that are coming out the jazz world. Quite easily, the best parts are the special sections, and interviews they have with artists.
Actually reading what the artists themselves have to say is very cool, especially to kids like me. :-)
Ok, you can say that Downbeat reviews are neglectable for a top Jazz addicted reader.
Also forget those unnecessary annual reader's polls and reviewers' polls, another neglectable part of Downbeat historical existence.
Suppose I am a Jazz instrumentalist or singer and I claim desperately for success. Then suppose I buy some 50 Downbeat subscriptions and distribute them as a gift to 50 different people under the condition they vote for me in the reader's annual poll. Well the game's quite ready for my career to be launched under Downbeat's poll parameters. Be sure I would hit a wonderful position in the poll and Downbeat would not have any chance to contest it. Quite fragile!
The good side is that there's a lot of good and updated information on albums, performances and artists. Also a good interview in each issue. Also the interesting Blindfold Test which exposes an artist to his memory capacity to idendify peers' recordings.
That's Downbeat, not the best, not the worst of Jazz magazines.